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Trojan Trolley: despite budget cuts, shuttle rolls on

Submitted by KenDrell Collins on September 19, 2013 – 11:10 amNo Comment

Photo by KenDrell Collins

In January 2014, the Trojan Trolley will be in operation for three years. Administrators say the trolley’s ridership is on the rise, but some students are uncertain if the service is beneficial.

Amid campus-wide budget cuts, the Trojan Trolley is no exception. Its budget has been reduced by ten percent, said David Millay, the associate vice chancellor of facilities management.

“We’re budgeted on a annual basis with $300,000 to pay the contract and fuel and so forth. Well, this year that will be ten percent less, so, it will be $270,000.”

Millay said the trolley system was initially instituted in order to address campus safety concerns. Parking lot distance and off-campus residences were also defining factors. “Students were definitely interested in the shuttle,” Millay said.

UALR has a contract with Arkansas Destinations, Inc., which is renewed on an annual basis.

The Trojan Trolley system consists of three trolleys; one being kept on reserve. The two currently in use take separate routes: the Maroon Route and the Silver Route.

The Maroon Route travels on the southern end of campus, making four stops from the University Village all the way to South Oaks apartments.

The Silver Route travels on the north end of campus, from Lot 14 near the Jack Stephens Center to the north side of West Hall.

Each trolley rolls through campus five days a week for 48 weeks out of the year. The trolley is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day during the week except Friday when it stops at 4.pm.

Sandra Vail, Director of Facilities Management Services and Operations, said the ridership of the trolley has increased.

Photo by KenDrell Collins

“We’re averaging 817.60, from January to today.”

That is a weekly average between the two trolleys from January to September 2013.  “It’s really actually very good,” said Vail.

She said ridership was up to 1,370 during one week at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. The contract requires the company to report the number of people who get on the trolley. Drivers keep track of this by using a hand-held counter.

When asked if she foresees any changes that need to be made, Vail said no.

“I can’t think of anything, I think it does its purpose. I don’t see anything that needs to change currently.”

UALR students Lucia Okaro and Andrea Phillips know plenty of changes they would like to see made.

Okaro, who lives in South Oaks Apartments, frequently uses the trolley. “It’s also just weird because it takes so long. You’re better off walking than taking the trolley,” she said.

“The only time I use it is to go to my car at nighttime,” added Phillips. “But I don’t see it that often anymore at night.”

Phillips said she wishes the trolley would make a stop at 8:40 p.m., when most night classes end. Okaro said she uses the tracker app, which shows the trolley’s movement in real time, to see where it is located.

Some students are not convinced that the trolley is actually a good use of the school’s resources.

Andrea Saavedra, a junior living off-campus who is majoring in Spanish and writing, said she’s never used the service.

“Never in my life, have I been on the Trojan Trolley. It’s not convenient to me where I park or anything,” she said.  “My class is like right over the bridge. I don’t need the trolley, our campus isn’t that big.”

Saavedra said her friend once rode the trolley but no one was on it. “She had a nice conversation with the driver though. On like the resource side of things, we’re kind of, like, wasting [resources],” Saavedra said.

Even trolley driver, Sandra McCoy, thinks there are some needed alterations. She gets complaints from her riders that the app does not always function properly, she said in an interview aboard the trolley.

She did notice, however, that ridership seems to be picking up lately. “It seems like more people this year.” She said she carried forty to fifty riders to a flag football game the previous night.

However, her concern is the fact that ridership is significantly lower during the summer months.

“It was dead,” said McCoy. “And they had us driving around. It was a few people here. And it don’t be that many students during the summer.”

The peak times, she said are during graduation and basketball games. Occasionally, students ride for fun. Ayla Jones, one of four riders on board at the time, said she was just riding to pass time but does use the trolley often.

“It gets me where I need to go without walking,” Jones said.

McCoy said a major issue is that students simply do not know where the trolley stops.  “They used to have like trolley stop signs and they stopped, they took them all down,” she said. The signs were placed at each of the designated loading areas for the trolley.

Though it provides added safety and convenience to campus walkers, there are those who believe that the trolley system needs a few adjustments.

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