Section: News

KAT sees expanded route, introduces future tracking service

KAT sees expanded route, introduces future tracking service

Knox Area Transit has increased the number of stops for its shuttles. | LIZ DEPROSPO

This semester, students catching a ride to Mount Vernon via the Knox Area Transit (KAT) shuttle now have access to nearly twice as many locations as last year, along with expanded weekday hours. Students will also soon be able to track the KAT via Google Maps as it moves between locations, allowing riders to easily see how far the shuttle is from them and what time they can expect to be picked up. 

The KAT provides regular public transportation to Mount Vernon and surrounding areas in Knox County for Kenyon students, offering hourly pick-ups and drop-offs for each location. The line most commonly used by Kenyon students is the Purple Line, which was piloted in summer 2016 and officially announced to the student body in fall of the same year. The line initially offered transportation to areas that were most popular with the student body, including Walmart, Kroger and the Wright Center. It also offered regular pick-up at the bookstore, where students could catch the shuttle once per hour. 

This semester, the KAT has expanded its stops both on and off campus, with 14 stops every hour. In addition to high-traffic spots such as Walmart and the Premiere Movie Theater, the KAT now offers regular transportation to The Annex Gallery and the public square in downtown Mount Vernon. The Purple Line also expanded its locations on campus, with visits to South Campus parking lots twice per hour. 

Senior Director of Campus Life James Jackson spearheaded many of these initiatives to expand the transportation services offered through the KAT, in collaboration with Transportation Coordinator Miracle Mahle and KAT Transit Director Bethany Celmar. He also emphasized the influence of Kenyon’s Google Developer Student Club (GDSC) on the route expansion. 

“The members of [GDSC] have been great in providing technical knowledge and ideas to push this project forward,” Jackson wrote in an email to the Collegian

This semester, GDSC president Samyak Shrestha ’25 is focused on incorporating technological innovation into life on the Hill and increasing tech literacy, and GDSC is working closely with Jackson to improve the quality of life at Kenyon for students. 

“At the moment we are currently working with the Knox Area [Transit] system to create a live tracking system for the KAT, and construct a much more timely and efficient system in which students can have access to more reliable transport and information,” Shrestha said in an interview with the Collegian

Shrestha also has hopes for a larger transportation system which includes more than the KAT, specifically highlighting a rideshare app that would allow students to provide transportation to each other. “The rideshare app would allow students to work together to find rides together and also help in situations where students want to find a buddy for various activities,” he said. 

Along with the increased locations on the Purple Line and Kenyon’s collaboration with GDSC, KAT has partnered with Ecolane, a mobility app which allows users to schedule specific transportation services 24 hours in advance. Through the app, users can select a pick-up and drop-off location, as well as a general 30-minute time frame during which the KAT will pick them up. In case of a medical transportation where the user is unable to schedule a ride in advance, the KAT website advises users to call for assistance. 

According to Jackson, the previous iteration of the Purple Line left many students occasionally confused as to when the KAT would pick them up from areas in Mount Vernon. Jackson and Celmar felt that introducing a service that would allow students to track the shuttle as it progressed along the route would be a step toward solving a consistent issue. Celmar recently submitted paperwork and information to Google, which Jackson hopes will soon allow students to track the KAT via Google Maps. 

For Jackson, partnering with Celmar and GDSC made the process of updating the KAT much easier. “The system changes were a perfect storm,” he said, highlighting how Celmar’s hiring as KAT Transit Director and the GDSC receiving funding from the Business and Finance Committee (BFC) all came at the perfect time to help contribute towards improving the KAT. 

As the majority of students on campus do not have a car, the KAT offers a reliable way to visit the surrounding areas of Knox County. In addition, the KAT is a free service for Kenyon students, who can board the shuttle so long as they have their student ID. However, Jackson noted that student feedback regarding the KAT has resulted in logistical solutions he hopes the College will work to implement soon. 

“One student suggested developing a walking buddy system, another requested a way for students who have classes at the Wright Center to have transportation during Federal Holidays when the KAT shuttle does not run,” Jackson said. 

In approaching this semester’s changes to the KAT, Jackson emphasized that a large part of the process was collaborating with the student body. “Working with students and helping their ideas come to fruition is such a great experience,” he said. 

Staff writer Catelin Bromfield ’26 contributed to reporting.

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