Classes at Gainesville State College start today, and students have a new way to get around: Route 7 on Red Rabbit.
Students just need to show their student ID cards to hop on board. The route features stops at GSC, Lanier Technical College, Wal-Mart, Goodwill, Blackshear Place Library and the Park & Ride lot on Thurman Tanner Parkway.
“The time was right to do this now, when enrollment is growing at the colleges,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center director. “Parking is a real challenge on those campuses, and they’re in the process of building a new parking deck but right now need a route to get to the Park & Ride lot.”
Route 7 is a small loop with the shortest Red Rabbit time — just 20 minutes.
“Theoretically, you could hop aboard instead of get in your car to go to lunch or go to the stores to take care of shopping,” she said. “It’s a burden to move your car when you get a good space just to go get a taco. You burn 30 minutes just trying to get across the street.”
The expansion is part of a five-year plan drafted for Hall Area Transit in May 2008. A consultant suggested they target access to colleges specifically.
“It’s something that’s been missing,” Lewis Moss said. “I’ve always said, if public transportation didn’t do anything but connect people to academic institutions, we’d be doing a good job. Nothing helps the community advance more than educating its young people.”
GSC President Martha Nesbitt said the timing couldn’t be better.
“Our campuses are growing so fast, we are nearly bursting at the seams,” she said.
Lanier Tech interim President Russell Vandiver marked it as a priority.
“Parking is at a premium. We need the help of public transportation,” he said.
On Sept. 1, Route 2 will shift to give better access to Brenau University and shopping areas such as the downtown square and Lakeshore Mall.
On Sept. 13, Route 5 will change from a 60-minute service to a 30-minute service. It’s the most popular Red Rabbit route that hits businesses, government buildings and community organizations along Jesse Jewell Parkway from Memorial Park to Main Street.
“We have a large student population that lives on campus, but does not own cars,” said Brenau President Ed Schrader. “They are very eager to have enhanced opportunities to get around town.”