By Ellen Coogan and Justin Heck
UA’s Downtown Express initiative has seen an average of 250 riders per weekend since its implementation in February of last year.
In the first three months of 2013, the Express had more than 2,000 riders. In 2010, a similar Student Government Association busing initiative called the E-Bus [Entertainment Bus] was shut down because of a lack of participation.
In an attempt to revive the idea, the Downtown Express was created as an weekend evening busing service to connect the UA campus with downtown Tuscaloosa. More than 450 students used the service on its inaugural weekend.
The Downtown Express runs from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays and Saturdays and from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays.
Ralph Clayton, director of transit services at The University of Alabama, said the Downtown Express was only one part of the university’s late-night transportation suite.
“The Downtown Express is a component of the late-night transit services, which support safe transportation options for The University of Alabama community. The Downtown Express primarily focuses on providing transportation to the downtown entertainment area,” Clayton said. “The Downtown Express supports the on-demand 348-RIDE service, eliminating the calls to downtown during the hours of the downtown express is in service. The service allows the 348-RIDE to focus more on providing service to other areas.”
The SGA and the UA Transportation Services worked together to form the program. The original purpose of the initiative was to provide a safe way for students to access restaurants and entertainment downtown without the worries of driving or parking.
“The Downtown Express is a great option for students to go to the downtown entertainment area without having to drive or walk,” Clayton said. “The downtown area has nice restaurants and entertainment establishments that appeal to the student population, and the Downtown Express offers convenient transportation to get there without a cost to ride.”
Justin Holle, a sophomore majoring in international relations and economics, said the service is a valuable resource for students who do not have cars on campus.
“The Downtown Express comes in handy for trips to the grocery store or to meet with friends on the weekend,” Holle said. “It’s also very convenient for students without cars who can’t explore the many attractions of Tuscaloosa.”
Holle also said the Downtown Express helps students connect with the city of Tuscaloosa.
“Providing transportation to and from downtown and campus gives students a way to become more connected to their city,” he said. “It’s too easy to stay in the bubble of campus and not form a real relationship with Tuscaloosa.”
It is not yet clear whether there will be any changes made to the Downtown Express with the incoming SGA administration.
“The Student Government Association is currently in its transition phase. The success of the Downtown Express has made an impact on many students, and I hope that success is continued,” Meagan Bryant, SGA press secretary, said.
The Downtown Express has two routes – a north and south route. The north route stops at the University bus hub, Publix, Black Warrior Outdoor, the corner of 4th Street and Greensboro Avenue and Lakeside Residential. The south route stops at the University bus hub, Bryce Lawn Apartments, Burke Hall, the south end of Bryant-Denny Stadium, Moe’s Original BBQ and the north end of of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Downtown Express and its routes can be seen live at ua.transloc.com