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OUT buses served 1.5 million in 2017

Heading into its 10th year of operation, the Oxford University Transit system has grown by more than 100,000 riders for each year the buses have carried passengers around Oxford and the University of Mississippi.

OUT carried approximately 1.5 million people in 2017.

“I remember the first year after we started the transit system, I think that number was about 130,000,” said Mayor Robyn Tannehill. “That doesn’t mean 1.5 million different people rode the bus. That means because of the bus service, that was 1.5 million trips that weren’t made in cars on our roads.”

The Oxford Board of Aldermen approved a $6.7 million budget Tuesday for the 2018-2019 fiscal year for the OUT system, which increased from the current budget of $5.3 million.

OUT needs to approve its budget early in the year so it can be submitted to the Mississippi Department of Transportation by the end of February to apply for transportation grants that pay 80 percent of capital costs and 50 percent of the operational costs.

This new budget won’t go into effect until October. The city’s fiscal year runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1.

Most of the increase is due to adding six buses and two vans, new routes on the University of Mississippi campus and plans to construct a downtown bus stop.

The federal grant should cover most of the expenses. After the grant is applied, the city’s share will be $533,641 and the university’s share will be $1.782,855. The university pays about 74 percent of the net operating expenses since many of the routes are on campus, while the city’s share is about 26 percent of whatever the MDOT grant doesn’t cover.

The city’s share for the upcoming fiscal year is about $500 less than in 2017.

Bus fare revenue is projected to be $95,500. University students and faculty ride the OUT buses for free since the university pays more into the bus service to subsidize the students’ fares. Nonstudents pay $1 to ride the bus. Senior citizens 65 and over and people who carry an OUT disability card pay 50 cents and students, K-12 pay $0.75. Paratransit is available at $2. Children under 38 inches tall, with a parent, ride free of charge.