Saluki Express buses reach record numbers

By Gus Bode

Almost 57,000 people rode Saluki Express buses in September, making it the busiest month since the service began in 1995.

This month’s 56,990 riders is a 15.5 percent increase from last September. The previous record was 55,559 riders in October 2007.

“The rising price of gas and convenience of routes has a lot to do with it,” said Jeff Duke, deputy director of the Student Center.


Duke also credits recent constructions of Aspen Court and Wall and Grand apartments for the increased ridership.

“Route six was reworked this year to include Saluki Point,” Duke said, “We wanted to wait and see how the turnout would be and started it on an hour route. Next year that route will be a half-hour route because we’ve had such a good turnout.”

While some students did not directly tie their ridership to the rising price of gas, they did state the convenience of leaving their cars at home.

“Riding the bus is more convenient and gets me to my classes a bit faster,” said Lauren Schakowsky, a freshman from Highland Park studying cinema-photography.

Schakowsky said she owns a car, but it’s not worth driving from her dorm to the Communications Building, especially with gas prices on the rise.

The average price of gas in Illinois is $3.61 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Association Web site.

Jayme May, a junior from Champaign studying Spanish, said she rides the bus to spare the expense of a parking sticker.


“It’s not worth it. Plus I didn’t want to waste time trying to find a parking space when the bus can get me to my classes faster,” May said.

Saluki Express has 11 bus routes with a coverage area from John A. Logan College to the SIU Airport and down to Saluki Point.

“About 95 percent of funding comes from student fees, and we get about 4 to 5 percent from fares from non-students,” Duke said.

Duke said the office also sells advertising on the inside and outside of the buses to help pay for the mass transit system. This accounts for $7,000 to $10,000 during a given year, he said.

“We also have mass transit fees, which next year will be raised to one dollar,” Duke said.

The fee is only raised according to their contract with Beck Bus. So when the contract increases, Saluki Express retrieves its price from the Consumer Price Index.

Kechell White, a sophomore from Chicago studying cardiac diagnostics, said she does not have a car and relies on Saluki Express as her main form of transportation.

White said buses in Chicago run every three to five minutes, and it’s hard for her to get used to a slower pace.

Autumn Howard, a sophomore from Chicago studying psychology, said she rides the bus roughly twice a week. She also said winter weather makes it more difficult to wait half an hour for a bus.

Duke said buses in urban areas could run more frequently because their stops are not spread out over such a large area.

“Western and Northern have shuttles that run every 10 minutes, which is possible because they have a large population close to campus,” Duke said.

Because SIUC is in a rural area, frequency of buses is harder to offer without raising student mass transit fees, Duke said.

“Our main goal is to bring students to campus for class,” Duke said.

Jennifer Butcher can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 274 or [email protected].