Catchin’ A Ride

Catchin’ A Ride

Bus services taking new direction in Fayetteville


The two bus services in Fayetteville hope to meld into a more cohesive unit, eliminating duplicate routes, increasing stop frequency and making rides free regardless of which bus a rider chooses.

Representatives with Ozark Regional Transit and Razorback Transit on July 10 gave a presentation to the City Council’s Transportation Committee about proposed changes to both services. The overall system will become more efficient and simpler to use, committee members were told.

Riders should expect to see noticeable changes to routes beginning Aug. 20. For example, Razorback Transit will take over bus service from campus to Walmart on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Finger Road. Stops there will increase to every 15 minutes, rather than hourly. Buses will operate from 6 a.m. to 10:45 p.m., rather than ending at 7:30 p.m. under Ozark Regional Transit. Saturday service to that Walmart also will be available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“That’s just huge,” said Adam Waddell, associate director for Razorback Transit. “We think that’s going to be a great impact not only for students but the general public in that area.”

Ozark Regional Transit’s routes from Hillcrest Towers to the Northwest Arkansas Mall and east and west of the mall will start picking up riders every 30 minutes, rather than once an hour. Service to Johnson will end. Ozark Regional Transit also will no longer implement “flag zones” where riders can hail a bus anywhere along a route. Instead, fixed point stops will be used in all areas. The city’s industrial park, however, will have a deviated route to pick up riders at certain times.

Pending a City Council decision, Ozark Regional Transit’s service in Fayetteville could become free. One of Ozark Regional Transit’s major goals is to make timing of routes more efficient, and going fare-free will keep the buses moving, Executive Director Joel Gardner said.

“Every time a person gets on a bus and there’s a challenge at the fare box, that’s time wasted,” he said. “When you’re talking about putting together a world-class system, one of the biggest keys is on-time performance.”

The Free Weekly/STACY RYBURN
Fayetteville City Council members Adella Gray (from left) and Kyle Smith, along with Joel Gardner, Ozark Regional Transit director, and Adam Waddell, associate director of Razorback Transit, listen during a July 10 meeting of Fayetteville’s Transportation Committee at City Hall.

It would take about $25,000 to make Ozark Regional Transit free in the city for the rest of the year. Committee members present at Tuesday’s meeting supported covering the difference, and the measure should head to the City Council on Aug. 7.

The city already has a yearly contract with Ozark Regional Transit for $422,908. It has a similar contract with Razorback Transit for $250,00 annually.

Ozark Regional Transit takes in about $63,700 yearly from riders in Fayetteville. Overall budget for the service, which spans all of Northwest Arkansas, is about $3.4 million.

Razorback Transit’s service is operated by the University of Arkansas and provides about 1.4 million fare-free rides to the public yearly. Ozark Regional Transit runs about 300,000.

The intention is for passengers in Fayetteville to transfer seamlessly from one service to another without having to pay a fare or notice what kind of bus they’re on, both Gardner and Waddell said. As such, Razorback Transit will implement a numbered system for routes, rather than colors. Stop stations should start to look more uniform.

Chief of Staff Don Marr, who sits on the Ozark Regional Transit board, said the changes very much represent the direction the city’s administration wants to go.

“We have to market transit, not two different systems,” he said.

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