Efforts to create a more walkable campus are going to prove themselves this fall at Weber State University, where nearly all shuttle bus stops have been cut to save money and preserve the environment.
Ongoing budget constraints are prompting the change, as well as a desire to reduce the college's carbon footprint and become more "green."
When the new semester begins Aug. 24, students parking at the Dee Events Center will notice a difference in the shuttle bus route and the vehicles. Instead of lurching around campus, stopping at any one of six locations, the new and improved shuttle buses will follow a direct route back and forth from the library to the Dee Event Center parking lot.
It will be the only shuttle stop on the main Ogden campus. The cost savings could total $200,000 each year with the new system, as the new buses "cost significantly less to operate," Whetton said. "Contrary to popular belief, the shuttle service does not receive funding from student fees. Given the current budget climate, we need to reduce expenses."
For some, WSU fleet manager Mike Whetton said the direct route will be more enticing, as it avoids various obstructions such as traffic lights and congested parking lot traffic at multiple locations across campus.
"It's a direct route, which makes it much quicker," he said.
The central campus library stop was preserved because most destinations on campus are a five- to seven-minute walk from there.
Whetton said it could take some time for students to get used to the new route, but they'll likely find it to be just as convenient as before. The UTA stops remain the same, including two locations on the north side of campus at the McKay Education and Social Science buildings and the Lind Lecture Hall.
Students have access to the UTA EdPass, which allows them to use the UTA system whenever they like.
As far as being more "green," Whetton said the fleet is transforming itself from older and slower, gas-guzzling buses, to new dual fuel-powered vehicles, which run on gasoline and compressed natural gas. The new $60,000 Diamond Coach buses with Ford chassis seat 20 and can transport up to 30 people at a time. They are quieter than their predecessors and much more fuel-efficient.
"This is the wave of the future, plus it's clean and quiet," Whetton said. Three of the older buses were surplused and others kept for road transportation of athletic teams and other organizations that sometimes need to travel.
Weber purchased three new people-movers, which will make the 2.3-mile round-trip every 10 minutes at peak hours, which is sooner than the 15-20 minutes it took the older version to make it around campus. The shuttle service will still operate from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays.
With the recent completion of the redesign of the center of campus, including eco-friendly landscaping and less concrete, the flow of students on the more than 500-acre Ogden campus, especially during class changes, has become much smoother, according to WSU's vice president of Administrative Services Norm Tarbox, who led the state's Board of Regents on a tour of the new facilities earlier this summer.