By Tina Ray/ParaglideJuly 16, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Fort Bragg has long been known as the "center of the universe."
But, did you know that its hybrid electric shuttles are leading the Army way'
Currently, Fort Bragg has seven hybrid buses, said Tim Shea, transportation chief, Directorate of Logistics. Six are constantly in use and the seventh is a back-up in case another needs repairing.
Fort Bragg has an assigned population of 65,000. "We're already moving three-fourths of the assigned population," Shea said of the shuttle buses. "That's not bad when you think about it and we're only getting better."
To clarify the discrepancy as to who can ride the shuttle, anyone on post can have access to the buses, said Charles Young, installation transportation planner.
"If you're on post, you've already been cleared," he said.
To resolve the discrepancy, which came to light at a recent town hall meeting, stenciling that reads, "Family members are welcome" and "Free shuttle service" has been added to the buses to inform customers of their access to shuttle transportation, Shea said.
One customer who has been taking advantage of the shuttle service is Pfc. Rossane Paul of the 602nd Aerial Support Medical Company.
Paul said she rides the buses to medical appointments at Womack Army Medical Center during the week and on weekends to the North Post PX for shopping and eating.
"It's very convenient, very helpful because without the shuttle bus, people in my unit are not available to give me a ride to my appointments," said the New York City native.
More Soldiers are beginning to use the shuttle buses, especially when she tells them that it is free, Paul added.
Shuttle driver Kapelle Wyatt said Soldiers and their Families should not be afraid to ride. His message to them, "Ride it and learn to get around," Wyatt said. "If you use it often, it can be very advantageous."
Wyatt said that he has seen Special Warfare Center and School Soldiers use the service during breaks from training. Others ride out of curiosity, eager to learn their way around post. Frequent visiting areas include the USO Recreation and the Blackjack Fitness centers, he said.
With main post and Bragg East routes, transportation is provided to more than 600 buildings if you count every building within a quarter-mile radius of any stop, Young said.
The main post route incorporates such areas as the 82nd Airborne Division, Mini Mall, WAMC, Soldier Support Center, Sports USA and the multimodal hub. Bragg East includes areas like the 82nd Sustainment Brigade, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), 528th Sustainment Brigade and Smoke Bomb Hill.
One of the goals of the shuttle is to eliminate the need for a driver to take their personal vehicle, to drive to a destination and back, only to find that they are forced to search for a parking space or find they have lost a convenient parking space, Young said. Taking the shuttle is quicker than driving.
"It's going to be more convenient just to walk down to the shuttle stop," said Young.
According to Shea, with concerns about parking and safety at intersections, transportation planners are looking to build a system that supports Fort Bragg growth. Some upcoming changes, which are subject to budget approval, include more signage, lighting and pavement markings and the installation of shelters to accommodate customers with disabilities, as well as outbound and inbound service to housing areas.
There will also be a movement to minimize the number of stops along a route, essentially
delivering a passenger to a faster destination, Young said.
In the meantime, funding has already been obtained to implement an information technology system on buses. ITS is a software package that allows stops to be announced to a customer ahead of schedule, which is of great benefit to those who are visually impaired, Shea said. The software will also allow Fort Bragg to conduct automated passenger counting - important because it could help determine the mapping of new routes or extended service hours based on passenger usage.
The service could be a perk if customers used it, said Wyatt, who seems to relish his job.
"I love doing it. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here. This is for the Soldier, this is for the troops and the Family members."