Students are just two semesters from a smoother commute.
Emerging from months of dust and debris is the new electric campus shuttle route, now officially half-completed. The first of two scheduled construction phases finished in early January. Construction will resume after spring commencement ceremonies during the summer semester.
Shireen Ghorbani, associate director of communication and organizational development for campus facilities management, said, “The idea is to minimize disruption to the student body.”
Beginning at Milton Bennion Hall, the new shuttle route will cut through central campus, passing the Sorenson Arts and Education building and LNCO before joining the Union shuttle loop and going on to Central Campus Drive. The shuttle has already been running trial cycles between campus housing and the business loop for almost a year.
The shuttle runs entirely on electricity and was designed by Utah’s WAVE Technologies. It uses magnetic induction technology for wireless charging. After spending a full night plugged into the wall, the bus will be able to “top off” throughout the day by driving over a metal charge plate embedded in the South Campus Station bus stop, said Chad Larsen, campus shuttle manager.
The bus, which is currently running on a single “long charge” each day, tends to run out of steam around 2 p.m. Use of the charge plate will extend the bus’s life throughout the night, allowing service until 11:30 p.m.
Ghorbani hopes the “increased connectivity” will encourage students to consider public transit.
“To have that connection between TRAX and north campus is really a key part of creating a nice flow for students who reach us via mass transit,” she said. “Moving people through that center piece of campus helps us in providing the service that people want.”
In addition to cutting down commute time, the new route will reduce overall shuttle mileage because drivers don’t need to circle the bulk of campus.
“This gives them a direct line,” Ghorbani said. “As an added bonus, [it] doesn’t rely on fossil fuels.”
Ultimately, the idea is to minimize the number of cars entering campus.
“We hope these developments help drag people out of their cars and help them see mass transit as a more viable alternative,” Ghorbani said.
Route construction will resume in May. The electric shuttle is scheduled to assume its new route by Fall 2016.
“It’s fun to drive, it’s quiet and it’s clean,” Larsen said, summarizing his employees’ appreciation for the new bus. “Now all that’s left is to get it where it needs to go.”