Clinton bus riders and Ashford students will no longer be able to take advantage of the city’s Ashford Loop bus line this year after it was cut due to a decision by the university to contract with a private company for service.
The new private shuttle will only be open to Ashford students, staff and faculty, meaning residents will not have access to extended service in the evenings, Saturdays or Sundays. It also means Ashford University students, faculty and staff will be charged for any trips they take on the city’s other bus lines.
Under the previous agreement, Ashford funded the bus route and the city allowed Ashford students, faculty and staff to ride the other city bus lines for free with an Ashford identification.
“It was a win-win system for everyone,” MTA Director Dennis Hart said.
Hart said the MTA was planning to run the loop beginning in mid-August until he was informed mid-June that Ashford would be going out to bid for the service.
The MTA is prevented from going out for competitive bid with private companies, according to Hart.
“We didn’t want to jeopardize our current service,” he said.
As a result, Ashford went to bid and contracted with Wiersema Charter Service, Inc., a company from Morrison, Ill. The private Ashford shuttle’s most extended loop will run from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 to 3 a.m. Friday, 9 to 3 a.m. Saturday and 9 to 1 a.m. on Sunday in 35-minute intervals. This loop will make stops at the Ashford Main Campus, South Campus, and Best Western Frontier parking lot. The bus will also make other stops including Plaza Bowling, the Ashford Community Tennis Center, Ericksen Center and Eagle Heights Elementary School if requested ahead of time.
In addition, Ashford will maintain other shuttles that run the same loop at different times and less days a week. The service will run for 40 weeks.
“We were well pleased with the service provided by the MTA,” Ashford University Communications Director Larry Libberton said. “The decision to change transportation providers was purely a financial one.”
The Ashford Loop was created two years ago as a result of a growing student base at the Clinton campus. In its first year, FY11, the Ashford Loop provided 57,000 rides. The ridership on the line increased more than two-fold in its second year. In FY12, the Ashford Loop boasted 125,983 of the 468,613 rides taken throughout the system. Information on how many rides were given to Ashford students versus residents was not available. The line ran for nearly as many hours as the shuttle Ashford will be running this year, with buses departing the Best Western Frontier every 40 minutes.