More now than ever before, students, faculty and staff at West Virginia University are leaving the driving to someone else as they get around campus and the Morgantown community.

Recent statistics show WVU ridership on Mountain Line Transit Authority buses has increased nearly 15-fold in the past six years, going from just 26,636 riders in 2001 to 394,522 in 2006.

Likewise, more people are taking advantage of WVU s Personal Rapid Transit, or PRT . More than 2.25 million riders were recorded from July 2005-June 2006, up from 1.9 million during the same 2001-2002 time frame.

These statistics show that our partnership with Mountain Line is really catching on, and underscore the popularity of the PRT ,said Bob Roberts, WVU Director of Public Safety and Transportation.The goal is to have fewer cars on the citys streets, and I think these numbers show were heading in the right direction.

WVU s arrangement with Mountain Line allows students and employees with a valid WVU ID to ride any bus route for free, whether its the Gold&Blue Connector, Orange, Red, Gold, Campus PM, or any of the other 11 countywide bus lines.

The Gold&Blue Connector, added last summer, has become particularly popular, Roberts noted.

It runs a continuous loop from Grant Avenue along Beechhurst Avenue to the Creative Arts Center, along Evansdale Drive by Engineering and Towers, to University Avenue by the College of Law, and back down Eighth Street to Grant/Summit and Life Sciences.

To date, the PRT has carried over 65 million passengers since its debut over 30 years ago. It has also accumulated a remarkable safety record, reporting no serious injuries in that time period.

Officials say federal funding has been secured to help pay for a five-year plan to upgrade aging components of the PRT . These improvements will help alleviate sporadic down time.

WVU is doing what it can to relieve some the congestion on area roadways by encouraging our students and employees to use mass transit when possible,said Narvel Weese, WVU s vice president for administration and finance.We urge members of the general public to get on board as well. Both the PRT and Mountain Line are inexpensive and convenient transportation alternatives available to everyone, not just the University community.

Weese said WVU is committed to looking at more ways it can alleviate transportation and parking pressures in Morgantown.

A campus-wide committee has been studying these issues for several months and is expected to have its recommendations soon, he said.

The bottom line is we want to be good neighbors. We understand our responsibility, and want to do our part to make this a great place to live,Weese said.

In 2006, WVU was cited as one of the nationsBest Workplaces for Commutersby the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation for its innovative and effective transportation services for employees and students. Only 72 colleges and universities made the list.

For Mountain Line bus information, visithttp://www.busride.org/and click on Route Maps. For the PRT schedule, seehttp://www.arc.wvu.edu/transportation/PRT.html