As a result of a year-long route study conducted by the Harrisonburg Department of Public Transportation and outside consultants — along with feedback from the JMU and Harrisonburg communities — the HDPT developed a new system of colored bus routes. The changes aim to make JMU’s campus and downtown Harrisonburg more accessible while embracing a simplistic route system that allows more buses to run.
“The big thing we’re trying to do with all this is just to make it easier for people to understand,” Avery Daughtery, transit superintendent for the HDPT, said. “We completely lost people as far as trying to figure out how to navigate our system.”
The previous bus routes consisted of 13 numbered routes, but as of late August, 14 buses will run on eight colored lines.
“These changes were made with two groups in mind: the students and the drivers themselves,” Elliot Menge, supervisor for the HDPT, said. “We just wanted to see if we could make things simpler, more consistent and more frequent for everyone involved.”
These transfer-based routes allow students living off-campus to board a bus that’ll stop at the Godwin Transit Center or Festival, where Inner Campus Shuttles will frequently and consistently arrive to take students around campus.
“I hope that it’s clear to people that we’re making these changes because there were concerns,” Michael Parks, communications director for the city of Harrisonburg, said. “If there’s more input about more changes we need to make, we’re interested in doing that.”
Daughtery said routes to off-campus housing complexes will run every 15 minutes, whereas before, Parks said buses could take upward of a half hour to return to the same complex.
“The main concern with the way bus routes have operated in the past is that if you’re at one of our local apartment complexes, it may be 15 or 30 minutes before the bus comes back,” Parks said. “The way this is working now, you’re going to get a bus to your apartment complex a lot quicker.”
In addition to the transfer-based routes, the HDPT is also introducing the Downtown Shuttle, which will service downtown Harrisonburg on Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 1:21 a.m. Sunday mornings.
“I’ve been jokingly calling it the ‘key to the city route,’” Menge said. “It’ll take them to the heart of downtown, it’ll take them to all the restaurants, Billy Jack’s, Jack Brown’s, right by the courthouse, to Kline’s … and then it just goes straight back to campus.”
The Downtown Shuttle will leave the Godwin Transit Center at the beginning of every hour starting at 7 p.m. until 1 a.m.
“There’s always people that really wish they could get downtown,” Daughtery said. “However, in the past when we’ve done a downtown shuttle, we’ve always received very low ridership. We thought this would be a perfect time to try this again, to try to at least make an attempt to offer this to students and get them exposed to not just shopping but other experiences just outside of the JMU community.”
HDPT is also increasing the number of Inner Campus Shuttles from three to 10, which will allow students to have more dependable and frequent transportation. The increase in Inner Campus Shuttles should lead to a bus heading in each direction at each stop every five minutes. Menge said 80% of ridership among JMU-related bus routes takes place on campus.
“We want people to give us a try,” Daughtery said. “If they’ve never ridden transit, or if they’ve ridden in the past and had a bad experience, this is something brand new, something way more frequent and something so easy to use.”
Contact Connor Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.