A Shuttle-UM route being offered this fall connects the University of Maryland’s campus to Columbia.
The Columbia Park and Ride bus, which has been running since Aug. 21, makes five round trips per day between the Regents Drive Parking Garage stop and the Broken Land East park-and-ride lot in Columbia, according to the DOTS website.
One of the main goals of the new route is to alleviate the stress on campus parking lots due to recent construction, said Anna McLaughlin, DOTS spokeswoman.
McLaughlin said the department is continually trying to create alternative transportation options that don’t involve driving a car to the campus for commuter students.
Ridhi Gupta, a freshman biology major, is one student who benefits from the new route.
“It’s better [than commuting] because I don’t need to drive back and forth and use my gas, so it’s easier,” Gupta said, adding that she was glad the Columbia bus loop was created before she started school.
As a freshman, Gupta has never experienced commuting to the campus without the new route, but for returning students — including junior kinesiology major Kazine Kelly, who lives in Columbia and used to drive to campus — the route is a welcome change.
“[The bus] is a straight shot to my home,” Kelly said. “It’s really convenient. It’s better than commuting out here and paying for a whole year [parking] pass … it saves you a lot of money.”
A year-long permit for commuter students is $293, according to the DOTS website. For resident students, a permit costs $567.
Because the route is so new, ridership has been low thus far, but McLaughlin said that is to be expected. DOTS is working on getting the word out about the Columbia bus through social media, tabling events and encouraging discussion among students, she added.
“We have to give it a solid try, which takes at least a semester,” McLaughlin said. “Word of mouth is huge,” she added, expressing confidence that the bus would eventually develop a larger ridership.
Although the department periodically reassesses its existing routes to determine whether they are useful to the university community, McLaughlin said there is no specific ridership quota that new routes, such as the 142, need to meet to receive funding from this university.
Rather, she said, DOTS assesses its routes “holistically” in an attempt to determine what works and what doesn’t. This process includes analyzing ridership data based on different times of day or different days of the week and determining whether there is room in the department’s budget to make changes.
McLaughlin said officials from the department try to meet regularly with student government, such as the Residence Hall Association, Graduate Student Government and the Student Government Association, to get ideas for new routes such as the 142, but DOTS isn’t currently aware of any other possible new service locations.
For now, providing service to Columbia will fulfill requests made by students over the years and provide a way on and off campus for other areas north of College Park, McLaughlin said.