It is hard to miss the bright orange buses now rolling around campus. After a summer of breaking in the fresh fleet of wheels, the Department of Parking and Transit Services is ready to introduce the new "T" Transit System.
"There were a couple of factors that led to us wanting to make the change with the transit system," said Mark Hairr, director of Parking and Transit Services. "One was more flexibility in the services offered to the students and the campus."
By separating from the Knoxville city transit system and using an independent contractor, the university administration can exercise more control over campus bus affairs.
"That's helpful to be able to make changes, like on a route that may be affected by construction," Hairr said.
Independently operated and with a fresh, fluorescent new look, the university's most recent investment is a distinct departure from the campus transit system of years past.
"They're all brand new buses, basically just a few weeks old," Hairr said. "They are all branded with the same look, so you know what is a 'T' service bus."
It would be hard to mistake the new buses with their Knoxville Area Transit counterparts, relieving any confusion that prevailed under the previous system.
"I betray my school by saying this, but I don't think anybody's really a fan of orange," said Emily Gregg, a sophomore triple majoring in French, biology and political science. "I have mixed feelings because I don't like loud designs. I think it's kind of cluttered, but that's just the outside. The inside is quite nice."
Color aside, "T" bus riders can expect other differences between the old system and the new.
One of the most useful reforms is the addition of a bus tracker app. Within the UT mobile application, students can now glance at their smartphone and see exactly where the buses are on campus at any given time.
"I think the greatest advantage, certainly, is knowing when the bus will come," Hairr said. "This will be particularly important in the evening. That way you can actually wait inside until you see the bus coming around the corner, literally."
Summer school students and faculty had the chance to trial the new technology first-hand.
"I have appreciated that now we can track the buses instead of just anticipating their supposedly imminent arrival," Gregg said.
On the buses themselves, users will find a host of upgrades intended to increase convenience, including a bike rack, USB charging stations and mobile handicap accessibility.