Campus-to-downtown shuttle starting soon, lacks contract
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 11:02
A private Wilmington company is answering the demand for fixed transportation running from campus to downtown by providing a weekend bus transit route to students; but with no contact with the university so far, UNC Wilmington departments are curious to know what implications, if any, arise from the services.
Wilmington Shuttle, a division of Cape Fear Limo, is hoping to start bus transit services to UNCW students this spring. The company will offer rides between downtown and the surrounding UNCW area, including some stops on campus. However, routes and stops have not been finalized as of yet.
“We are currently planning on three stops throughout UNCW campus,” said a representative of Wilmington Shuttle.
The company has been working with the city for a couple years now to get the necessary permits. It was a tedious process because the city allots only a certain number of permits to be admitted every year. The city permits are currently being finalized.
The new service has taken UNCW officials by surprise. Wilmington Shuttle has not notified UNCW of the service, and several officials say they don’t know whether these city permits give the company free reign on campus without the university’s approval.
Bart Neu, manager of PParking and TTransportation at UNCW, is mostly concerned with the potential for stops on campus. There is safety and risk management that usually goes into the approval process for a bus or shuttle stop on campus, Neu said. He wonders whether such a process is required for Wilmington Shuttle in addition to their city permits.
“Without talking to them and getting certain entities from the university involved, I can’t answer those questions for sure,” Neu said.
With rumors swirling, Wilmington Shuttle created a Facebook page early in February to begin promoting their services. Out of 681 people who have “liked” the page, 18-24 year-olds are the most popular age-group. Also according to the page, the number of people talking about WS on Facebook peaked in the second week of February but has since steadily declined.
“Ideally, just in terms of good faith, it’s in their best interest to talk to us here at the university,” Neu said. “Because, first and foremost, if we can get buy-in from the university there is no reason we can’t help promote it.”
Neu is not the only university official that the invisible Wilmington Shuttle has evaded. Stan Harts is the director of the EEnvironmental HHealth and SSafety department at UNCW, and like Neu, has not heard from Wilmington Shuttle or of the services they plan to implement in a couple months.
EHS is responsible for making sure the placement of a bus stop on campus is in line with UNCW’s sustainability standards.
Shannon Boyd, associate vice chancellor of Business Affairs; which encompasses Parking and Transportation, EHS and Institutional Risk Management, declined to comment on the services due to the lack of contact and information from Wilmington Shuttle.
Regardless of the university’s apprehension, Wilmington Shuttle has two years of planning on the school and is fairly prepared to begin services this spring.
Wilmington Shuttle will service two Nova LFS buses that seat 38, with standing room. They plan to run shuttles from 5 or 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. Ride fares have been finalized and will amount to $5 per trip.
One Wilmington Shuttle representative says the ride fare exceeds the fare that Wave Transit requires at $1.50 because unlike Wave, they are funding their services with ride fares and advertisements only.
Students who are anticipating a safe alternative mode of transportation after a night of partying downtown are hoping for a successful run in the spring, but Wilmington Shuttle’s reluctance to work with the university may hinder that.
If nothing else, it seems that some at the university would appreciate a courtesy call from the people at Wilmington Shuttle to establish some kind of relationship, no matter how one-sided.