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Astronaut to land in LU


Lynchburg’s astronaut, Leland Melvin, is coming to Liberty Univeristy.

Melvin is scheduled to speak at convocation on April 7 as part of his first trip to his hometown since a 13-day mission on the Space Shuttle Atlantis last month.

The university is paying to fly Melvin from Houston NASA to Lynchburg but the exact dates the astronaut will arrive and leave have not been determined.

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LU is helping out GLTC

The dramatic increase in the city’s bus ridership by Liberty University students is one of those classic win-win situations. At least that’s how Mike Carroll, general manager of the Greater Lynchburg Transit Company, sees it. And he’s right.

More riders generate greater revenues for the transit system and ultimately better service for all of its customers. Also, nearly every one of those riders means one fewer vehicle on city streets, which is bound to improve traffic congestion on and near the LU campus.

Those increases in student passengers also help the system keep its head above choppy financial waters as it provides transportation for others in the city who need it on a daily basis.

Liberty partnered with GLTC last year to offer an on-campus bus service aimed at reducing university traffic. Those new routes, which are paid for by LU, soon doubled the city’s total bus ridership.
The numbers are still rising. Since the beginning of the current school year and the end of January, LU saw a little more than 980,000 riders board the buses, which is also double the number of all other GLTC routes combined.

The service at LU started with six GLTC buses. Transit officials plan to increase that number to about 12 in peak hours. The additional vehicles will come from older buses recently replaced by the purchase of eight new hybrid buses that were placed in service last month.

The ridership has been so popular that the university is pursuing a new off-campus service for the next school year. The additional routes have been described as a commuter service by LU officials and would target housing developments with high concentrations of Liberty students and employees whose neighborhoods are not served by the transit system.

The growth of service at LU, however, may not be enough to restore service to a heavily traveled route that runs through downtown past Lynchburg General Hospital. Transit officials asked for an increase in the annual operating budget to put more buses on the route that runs from The Plaza to Main Street to Lynchburg General and back.

It’s one of the city’s busiest bus routes. Last year, service on the route was reduced from every 30 to every 60 minutes to accommodate budget cuts. Budget prospects appear just as bleak in the coming year, as city officials have characterized spending for the fiscal year beginning July 1 as a “maintenance”-only plan and not one that would feature spending for new programs or added bus routes.

Carroll said the transit system would continue to explore ways to restore that popular service through downtown, but he noted that other routes are also facing challenges.
The LU service can be viewed as the blessing it has become to the transit service when looked at in terms of the overall budget. The $6.3 million transit budget for the coming year is a 12 percent increase over the current year, a rise that’s almost entirely attributable to the university.

With the planned expansion of service to LU, the GLTC contract would increase from $932,000 to $1.5 million, a 60 percent rise.

Liberty’s use of the GLTC buses has truly been a win-win situation. The buses have helped to keep traffic moving on the LU campus and the cost of the service has helped keep the transit system afloat financially. City bus riders — for whom good transportation services are essential — become the beneficiaries.

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Summary of the hostage drill

On Wednesday, officers in Lynchburg simulated a hostage situation at the old Lynchburg Christian Academy, to test their skills and response time.

Students from Liberty University played the role of wounded hostages, giving rescue workers a chance to practice treating a scene of mass injuries.

More than 350 people from 22 different agencies took part in Wednesday’s drill.

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McDougal wins a big award

Josh McDougal won the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Southeast Region Men’s Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year award for the first time in his career, despite running in only four races this season. He won them all, including the Big South Conference 1,500 and 3,000 events, and is currently training for this weekend’s NCAA Division I indoor track and field championships in Fayetteville, Ark., where he will compete in the 3,000 and 5,000.

His fastest time in the 5,000, 13 minutes, 45.16 seconds, run at LU’s Tolsma Indoor Track Center 12 days after winning the NCAA cross country championship, still holds up as the fastest of the season by an NCAA performer and ranks second in the world. His fastest 3,000 time this season of 7:54.85, run Feb. 29, set a Big South championship meet record and ranks sixth on the national performance list.

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