Text and photos by Nathan Cooke
When exploring Blacksburg, you often notice three things: maroon and orange outfits, gray limestone aka Hokie stone and city-style buses. Blacksburg Transit (BT) is responsible for most of the public transportation in town and operates under the auspices of the Town of Blacksburg. More than two-thirds of the 189 full and part-time employees are bus operators, who each complete three months of training. Some 20,500 passenger trips occur per day when classes are in full swing at Virginia Tech, with an astonishing 3.5 million passengers moving about the town and Virginia Tech campus last year.
Service began in 1983 and has steadily grown by adding buses, routes and stops to meet needs in the community. Currently, BT has 48 large buses, including seven very long, accordion-like, bendy ones which each have a capacity of 107 passengers. The first bendy bus was acquired in 2010, and there is specialized training for driving them. Buses are equipped with 6-liter diesel engines that get a thirsty three miles per gallon. Luckily, distances between stops and trips across town are short.
According to Mike Price, maintenance manager for 23 years, the buses are completely serviced every 6,000 miles. Servicing takes two days, and a 94,000-square-foot, heated garage has several back up buses to ensure that routes are covered every day. After each service check-up, buses are washed and cleaned completely. The garage has a state-of-the-art automated washing bay in frequent use.
“All of the buses are equipped with GPS tracking,” states Fiona Rhodes, communications and customer support specialist. “This ensures that safety is maintained by monitoring bus speed, stop time, time between stops and other statistical information.” Seat belts are not installed due to low speed, short distances and federal regulations not requiring them. A/C and heat provide comfort inside.
While there tends to be someone riding the buses at all times of the day, the most busy use times are during the academic year at Virginia Tech around class changes Monday through Friday. The most busy route in town is the Progress Street route, which is almost all student housing along the section between N. Main St., and Patrick Henry Drive.
Blacksburg Transit takes pride in providing safe, clean and well-maintained public transportation with well-maintained buses and on time routes. It is an amazing, beneficial service that is backed up by an amazing, competent staff. Connecting people to their futures, jobs, shopping and classes for only 50 cents a ride is an unbelievable bargain.
The word bus is short for omnibus and came into popular use in the 19th century. An early spelling included two s’s at the end, but the single s has won for acceptability today. The preferred plural of bus is buses, and the word busses with a double s in the middle refers to the verb “bus”, as in bussing tables in a restaurant.
This arm of Blacksburg Transit provides door-to-door transport for people who meet requirements established by the USDOT under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Amended Act of 2008 to travel within the Blacksburg town limits. The airport shuttle-style buses have fully accessible low floors, and drivers are permitted to assist passengers from their pick-up door to the exterior door of the destination. It is a wonderful service for disabled, elderly and folks with limitations who might not otherwise be able to go shopping or travel to a doctor appointment.
For schedules, routes, passes and more information: