Supporting 38,000 students with an efficient transportation system

University of Alabama’s Crimson Ride moves students and visitors around campus on game days and every day

The University of Alabama’s former president, Robert Witt, tasked the campus with both increasing enrollment and becoming more pedestrian-friendly in 2006. An extensive transportation system helped support both of those goals. Alabama partnered with First Transit, one of the largest private-sector providers of mobility solutions in North America, to implement an initial network of 17 buses. That fleet has grown to 51 buses in ten years.

“For the 2016-17 academic year, we have approximately 10,000 students living on campus, and almost 28,000 commuters,” says James Knickrehm, associate director of transportation services. “Many students come to campus without vehicles but still need a way to get to and from class.”

Alabama’s bus system, known as Crimson Ride, operates 11 routes Monday through Friday across the 10 million-square-foot campus. Buses transport students from residential areas and commuter parking lots to the center of the campus.

Of course, in additional to the typical school week, weekend activities at Alabama also require the movement of many constituents—especially for Saturday football games. Over 100,000 fans flood the Alabama campus for each home game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. A seven-stop route brings students and visitors to the campus quad for tailgating, and to the stadium for the game.

Crimson Ride can also be enlisted for smaller special requests. “We are a full-service transit organization for the university. If there’s a need, we try to fill it to the best of our ability,” says Knickrehm.

Driving ridership
To maximize awareness of the bus system, students are provided route maps and information on Crimson Ride during their Bama Bound orientation weekend and Week of Welcome at the beginning of the fall semester.

“A lot of students are used to having a car or their parents driving them around,” says Knickrehm. “We need to teach them how to integrate planning for transit into their schedules.”

Additionally, students can get route information and transportation news from Crimson Ride’s website (crimson, Facebook page and Twitter feed. Students on the go can reference the TransLoc app, which First Transit introduced to Alabama. TransLoc provides real-time information on where a particular bus is located and when it will arrive at specific bus stops. It also provides valuable insight for transportation management.

“TransLoc provides data on the number of students using the system, and where they are getting on buses,” says Ralph Clayton, assistant VP of enterprise operations. “We can review that data and make sure our routes are as efficient as possible.”

A true partnership
While Alabama owns its vehicles, First Transit manages the staffing, maintenance and operations of the institution’s bus system. First Transit helps Alabama protect its assets by integrating technology such as Zonar, a fleet tracking platform that delivers fuel consumption, odometer use, and engine and system diagnostics reports. This information helps keep the buses on schedule for preventative maintenance.

First Transit and its employees on the Alabama campus are truly considered members of the university team, says Clayton.

“At the University of Alabama, we pride ourselves on a culture of excellence,” says Clayton. “That expectation is for excellence in academics and athletics, and one we extend to our external partners. First Transit meets our expectations for excellence.”

This piece was produced for First Transit Inc. by University Business. For more information, visit You can also follow @firsttransit on Twitter.


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