New SMART routes and gates offer pedestrian-friendly options

During the beginning of the semester, the Commuter East parking lot became congested with traffic as students look for parking. 

This fall, Mississippi State University has undergone multiple transit and route changes with a goal of establishing a pedestrian-friendly campus.

Parking Services installed gates in the vicinity of the Resident South dormitories, around the Greek North and South parking zones and on Hardy Road.

MSU’s Executive Director of Transportation Jeremiah Dumas said the redundancy in certain routes and ongoing traffic delays led to the gates on Hardy Road.

“Part of the reason for the gates were to remove some of that traffic so that the central route can stay in there to make it more efficient with quicker routes around the core of campus,” Dumas said.

According to Dumas, the ID gate project was established due to the pedestrian accidents that have occurred in the past year.

“It was challenging with the numbers of vehicles that were on Hardy, coupled with the number of pedestrians that now cross Hardy since the growth of the music building and Rula,” Dumas said.

Carter Watson, a freshman majoring in chemistry, is living in Residence North and has yet to hear much about the new gate installation on Residence South. However, as a freshman on campus, Watson has spent most of his time walking instead of driving.

“I haven’t had to drive through the gates yet since I live in Griffis, but I’ve actually rarely driven myself,” Watson said.

Joe Blalock, a freshman biochemical engineering major, said he believed only students living on the south side of campus received gate passes for the area.

Both Blalock and Watson said they have limited options driving on campus because of the locations of their parking pass zones.

Dumas explained that MSU has had plans to become pedestrian-friendly since the 1960s.

“Our master plan, 10 years ago, developed a pedestrian core, and then, we are actually in the process of completing our 10-year update to that master plan, which establishes a pedestrian core that includes the area from Hardy to across the Drill Field to where the plaza is between the YMCA and the Union,” Dumas said.

In addition to the gates, the SMART bus program has expanded its routes across Starkville.

Dumas said SMART will conduct changes once a year to maintain traffic trends in the area.

“This year, we've made some changes that we've seen in the last several years that needed to be made, but we wanted to make one big change,” Dumas said.

According to Dumas, this year’s goal for the SMART routes was to connect campus to Walmart and the north, central and south sides of Starkville.

“Across the center part of city, we’ve put together what we call the “Starkville Connector” which connects all three of those routes,” Dumas said. 

Parking and Transportation’s Transit Services Manager Larry Graves described the new changes made to the SMART bus routes, including their new names.

The new central MSU route, which differs from the central Starkville route, now stops in front of the Mill Conference Center instead at Oak Hall.

“It's trying to get people that are commuting to campus to the center of campus and moved around a little bit more,” Graves said.

However, Graves said the Oak Hall stop is still in service but has been assigned to a different route.

“It moves people towards Montgomery Hall, and it also comes around and picks up a stop near the Fraternity Row and near Sorority Row,” Graves said. “We changed some locations a little bit for those stops just to help centralize things a little bit and make the route more efficient.”

Along with the central route, Graves explained the previous research route has transformed into the north MSU route.

“It redistributes people, obviously from Old Main, up to the research route and also gets people that are living in College View towards Old Main,” Graves said.

While the addition of new routes and ID-required gates have been installed to handle traffic, problems with out-of-zone parking has caused an overflow in Commuter East, Dumas said.

“Unfortunately, people still think that there's this myth that they can park wherever they want to on the first day of class, so we have ramped out-of-zone parking,” Dumas said.

Another issue regarding Commuter East is the unfinished construction of the parking lot behind the Roberts Building.

“Hopefully, by the time we get it done, it will be helpful,” Dumas said.

Dumas said he expects traffic to die down when students begin to park in the right zone and after construction is finished.

For more information regarding updated routes and schedules, visit the SMART website. 

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