Wood Davidson, director of ECU Transit, stands in front of a new bus shelter under construction on campus. In response to passenger requests, ECU is renovating high traffic bus stops to provide protection from inclement weather. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

New bus stop shelters, Pirate Express route to serve university

Aug. 19, 2014

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

New and improved shelters are opening this fall to provide pedestrians protection from inclement weather while they wait for East Carolina University transit buses.  

In addition, a new Pirate Express route will offer safe and reliable late-night transportation to and from the “grid” area between Fifth and First streets near downtown Greenville.  

Covered stops have topped riders’ wish lists for years. “It’s the thing our riders have been asking for,” said Wood Davidson, director of ECU Transit.  

The shelters will be located at the following ECU bus stops: Speight/Rivers buildings, Mendenhall Student Center, two on College Hill between Jones Residence Hall and Todd Dining Hall, two on Ficklen Drive – near the lower and upper Minges lots - and at Curry Court near the Carol Belk Building.  

To help ensure student safety, a new Pirate Express bus route will transport students from downtown areas to university neighborhoods between 10:30 p.m. and approximately 2:30 a.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays.

The seven shelters will be completed by Oct. 4 and will include covered bike parking – a first for the ECU campus, Davidson said.

The two shelters on College Hill are expected to open first and may be ready in time for the start of classes.  

ECU Transit worked with Facilities Engineering & Architectural Services on the design of the shelters in accordance with the university’s master plan.

ECU Facilities is funding five of the structures, with a cost ranging from $60,000 to $80,000 each depending on the site. ECU Campus Living is paying for the two on College Hill.  The previous shelters at Mendenhall, Curry Court and on Ficklen Drive were demolished to make way for the new structures.

“This is a repair and renovation project - replacing old shelters, renovating existing ones and adding new ramps to make the shelters fully accessible, adding covered bicycle racks, and improving lighting to provide a more safe, secure and user-friendly environment for pedestrians and cyclists taking advantage of our transportation system,” said Michael Talton, project manager for ECU Facilities.  

The bus stops selected for shelters have the largest number of riders. “Another thing from the design standpoint is that the structures will last for several years with very little maintenance,” Davidson said. 

There is space for advertising or information, and a digital display sign will provide ‘NextBus’ information on bus schedules and arrival predictions. Students can access NextBus information via the ECU mobile app for smartphones.

Each shelter will have an open design with seating that offers clear sight lines and is well lit. “We really thought about safety (during planning),” Davidson said.  

Safety is also a top priority for ECU’s Student Government Association, which initiated the new Pirate Express route for the grid. “Route 902 The Grid” will serve the area from Fifth Street to First Street in the Tar River neighborhood to River Walk apartments, Thursday through Saturday nights from 10:30 p.m. until approximately 2:30 a.m., Davidson said.

About ECU Transit

  • ECU Transit buses carry 2.5 million riders a year averaging 20,000 a day
  • Total fleet = 40 buses
  • Typically 30 buses are in service at one time
  • Two hybrid buses are part of the ECU fleet

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“We believe that this is a very important initiative as it is directly related to the safety of students,” said SGA President Michael W. King, who credited former SGA president Tim Schwan with leading the efforts for the new route.

Stops will be established about every two blocks to offer short walking distances to residences.

“A majority of crimes committed in the university neighborhood area happen right after bars close, after 2 a.m.,” King said. “We believe, along with the local police departments, that the presence of an ECU Transit system bus running during these times in that area will deter crime. We believe this system will help to give students, faculty and parents a little more peace of mind.”

Students, faculty and staff can ride ECU Transit buses free with a valid ECU 1 Card. SGA will provide $10,000 per semester for the service.

“Having the additional bus stops throughout the grid will add an extra level of security for our students and transit passengers and cut down on the foot traffic that we see in the grid during the busiest nights of the week,” said Lt. Chris Sutton of the ECU Police Department. “It will help reduce crimes of opportunity by those individuals that would prey on our students or visitors to the downtown area.”

Sutton added that the new bus shelters will help increase student interest about the service, as well as increase safety for riders.

For those traveling on foot, Sutton underscored the importance of walking in pairs and staying aware of surroundings.