Campus-to-airport bus transport in discussion

Christina Bucciere

Kent State Provost Todd Diacon has confirmed that bus transportation to and from local airports is likely to become available for students in the upcoming school year.

“It certainly is a great idea,” Diacon said, “and I strongly suspect that as early as this August we’ll have something up and running that helps students make their way both from airports to campus and campus to airports.”

The airport transportation project was introduced by a group of students participating in the Provost’s Leadership Academy (PLA) during the 2012 to 2013 school year.

According to the Kent State website, the PLA offers the chance for incoming freshmen to learn about their leadership styles and work on developing a project to improve an area of concern within the university.

Hannah Kelling, PLA member, said the academy formed three groups, each with a designated mentor — a student who participated in PLA the previous year — to provide guidance along the way. The groups were each responsible for developing a plan to improve the university as they saw fit.

Kelling’s group split into three sub-groups, each having its own objective. Kelling’s sub-group formulated the airport transportation plan in response to hearing about students struggling to arrange rides to catch their flights for breaks.

“One of the group members had a friend who lives in Boston, and she loved the idea because over spring break, her ride fell through that was taking her to the airport,” said Madeline Utrup, sophomore hospitality management major. “So she had to scramble to find another way home, and almost didn’t make it. She thought it would be a lot easier if there was a direct transport to the airport from the university.”

Next, the sub-group spent about two weeks compiling research and data to support the need for airport transportation.

“We collected research on gas prices, how much it would cost to keep the bus in maintenance, what buses we would use and other things like that,” Utrup said. “We also did a lot of research on how many of our students are international and out-of-state to get an idea of what the need would be. We presented our idea to the group of mentors, and they thought the shuttle idea would work best. Then we worked on our actual presentation for the provost.”

Once the sub-group’s idea was chosen to represent the group as a whole, the students spent a few more weeks preparing their final pitch to present to the provost.

“To prepare for that we also sent out a survey through a database from the Center for Student Involvement to see if students would use the service, and the response was very positive,” Utrup said.

Diacon’s response to the project idea was positive, too.

“I am very proud of the work that all of our Provost’s Leadership Academy participants do, and this project, in particular, is very impressive,” Diacon said.

The push to implement this project, Diacon said, became a top priority just recently.

“The idea came to the forefront because at Destination Kent State, a parent of an out-of-state student raised the issue.” Utrup said.

If the project was implemented into campus life based on the group’s plan, the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA) bus system would offer the service every break and one Friday per month.

The plan specified that buses would take students to both the Akron-Canton and Cleveland-Hopkins International airports, allowing students to register for rides through Flashline.

“I believe we also estimated the cost of the service [for students] to be about $10 based on gas prices,” Kelling said, “but it was difficult to estimate what it would be because we had no official contract with the bus service.”

Frank Hairston, director of marketing and public service of PARTA, said the university has not yet reached out to PARTA about implementing this project.

These logistical details, Diacon said, are subject to change.

“I can’t promise the plan will look exactly like the students’ plan, but that is a great starting place for us,” Diacon said.

Diacon said he and Greg Jarvie, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, will be meeting to discuss details of implementing the project in time for students arriving on campus for fall semester.

“Vice President Greg Jarvie and his office have looked at the proposal and indicated that he favors doing something along the lines of what the students came up with,” Diacon said. “I don’t know exactly what it will look like, but we all recognize the need to help students make it from the airports to campus and campus to the airports, out-of-state students and international students especially.”

Contact Christina Bucciere at [email protected].