JETS provides cheap transportation for students

By Samuel G. Smith
On September 28, 2011

If you've ever been frustrated by trying to find parking, fighting traffic or the increasing cost of gas, there might be a solution right under your nose.

The Jonesboro Economical Transit System, or JETS for short, has been serving the city and the ASU campus since 2006. Though it's undergone some changes since then-such as the reduction of the transit fleet from six to three buses-its members are still striving to make public transportation a viable option in Jonesboro.

Michael Black, JETS transportation supervisor, said the buses served more than 4,000 riders this August, an 8 percent increase over the same time last year.

But even with record ridership in the rest of the city, JETS Transit Coordinator Steve Ewart said ASU commuters aren't as common as they once were, despite plenty of perks for campus travelers.

For one, students get a discount on all bus fares. A 31-day pass-normally $31.25 for adults-costs $20 for students. What's more, rides on campus are free: get on at a stop on one side of campus and ride to another without paying a dime. And if you prefer to bike to where you're going, JETS buses all have sturdy bike racks to help bridge the gap between point A and point B.

"I think there's a very good reason for the university community to be interested in public transit," Ewart said. "You don't have to worry about parking (and) you don't have to worry about the hassle around the campus as far as trying to get close. JETS is going to be fairly approximate to any part of campus."

The system consists of three buses running on an hourly schedule serving 112 stops and 23 shelters, several of which are on or around campus. There are shelters at Bookout Plaza, the NorthPark Quads, the Dean B. Ellis Library and in The Village housing, in addition to stops in front of Wolf Bookstore, ASU Parking Services and on the corner of Melrose Street and Johnson Avenue.

The three bus routes serve a lot of the common destinations commuters need to go, too. From several apartment complexes to supermarkets, hospitals and government buildings, JETS has most every destination covered.

Of course, the system isn't perfect. Buses stop their weekday routes at 7 p.m. and don't run on the weekends, so you're out of luck if you need to travel during these times.

And unless you don't mind regularly feeding the fare box, get used to making trips to City Hall to buy bus passes. Black said in the future riders will also have an electronic payment method, one that might even accept ASU Express Dollars.

"I am working with the company that manufactures our fare box," he said. "Our fare boxes already have that availability, but whenever the system was started, that particular part of the software was not purchased. Ultimately it will happen, but exactly when there's no way to say right now."

Also on JETS' horizon is the possibility of using federal grant money to build a central transfer station, a manned facility that would serve as a source of information for customers as well as open up the possibility of a national bus service such as Greyhound offering service there.

"We've applied for a grant to build a central transfer station," Black said. "It would enable us to very easily take what we're doing now, tweak it just a little bit and make that central transfer station the focal point of the routes. It will be highly expandable as public transit grows in Jonesboro."

Whatever the future brings, public transit in Jonesboro will continue to be a viable option for many.

Next time you're looking for parking on campus, consider leaving your car at home and take the bus. It's cheaper, better for the environment and might make your day a little less stressful.

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