University of North Georgia student Mallika Dinesh is using the skills the university gave her to ask for some changes on the Gainesville campus.
Dinesh, an environmental studies major in the spatial analysis program, lives in an apartment about a mile from the Gainesville campus. The university’s new shuttle services don’t stop by her apartment — or any others — and she’s drafting a proposal to change that.
“The shuttle primarily runs from an off-campus lot that’s about a half mile away from campus,” Dinesh said. “People have to drive to the lot to park there and take the shuttle. What I wanted to do was extend the route to the two nearby apartment complexes where many students live.”
The current shuttle route already passes one of the two apartments, The Columns at Oakwood. The other apartment complex, The Preserve at Tumbling Creek, is about half a mile away.
“I have a map that I worked on and submitted in talking to the dean of my department,” she said. “In the spatial analysis program we do a lot of mapping. So I talked to him and he said he was going to talk to the provost.”
Dinesh also spoke to the Gainesville campus’ auxiliary services, the Student Government Association, the Students for Environmental Awareness and the Geospatial Club.
“I have the map, and right now the whole route is about a mile,” she said. “The shuttle has three buses, so it would be possible to run the route.”
But there may be concern, according to Dinesh, about the shuttle’s ability to stop on private property at these complexes. Dinesh said she sees ways around that.
“I think we can navigate that,” she said. “These shuttles aren’t serving as public transport, and they could have UNG students show or swipe in with their ID card when we get on the shuttle. And they don’t have to go in the complexes— passing by it isn’t going on private property and they already use the public road.”
According to the university website, shuttle services are available on the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses for the first time this fall. On both campuses, the shuttles will transport students from leased parking lots off campus to high-traffic spots on campus.
The new service was created “to aid students in finding and utilizing parking spaces near campus while parking expansion is underway,” the website's shuttle page states.
Dinesh said there is room for the new shuttle service to grow. When she first heard the university would be adding the shuttle this year, she assumed the purpose was to remove the need to drive entirely for many students.
“We have over 7,000 students,” she said. “We really don’t have the infrastructure for that many parking spots. The parking situation is pretty bad, but instead of building more parking lots, I think eliminating the need for some students to travel would really help the situation.”
Next, Dinesh hopes to learn how many students live in the two complexes, to determine how many would benefit from the altered route.
“What remains is to organize this,” she said. “Garnering UNG signatures doesn’t help as much, my professor said, as getting the names and addresses or at least the number of UNG students living in these apartment complexes.”
Dinesh hopes the university may be able to follow the example of some larger universities, like the University of Georgia, which has a university transit system that stops at off-campus apartments.
“It’s the norm, I would say, rather than the exception,” she said.