Late-night shuttle to keep drunken WCU students off the road

The “buzz bus” soon will be ferrying students from bars in Sylva back to the Western Carolina University campus.

Last week, town commissioners gave their blessings to the new venture, the brainchild of two Franklin brothers, Tim and Sam Crabtree.

The two men said they’d identified a business niche that needs filling. Plus, Tim Crabtree said, the brothers have hopes of getting drunken drivers off the five-mile stretch of road between dry Cullowhee and wet Sylva. The taxi service in Sylva currently has limited hours, they said, and isn’t always available in the early morning hours when the bars close and students stream home toward Cullowhee.

Similar attempts have been made in the past to run a transport service for WCU students.

“We do want to prevent DWIs,” Tim Crabtree told commissioners about this latest effort, adding that he’d recently vetted his business plan by spending time observing the students leave the bars. Most, he said, appeared to have driven there and back again — many after having consumed alcoholic beverages.

The Appalachian State University graduate said a similar taxi service aimed at students operated successfully in Boone during the time he was attending school there. Tim Crabtree said he would drive the seven-passenger mini van to start. Sam Crabtree said the brothers hope to be successful enough to soon hire a fulltime driver.

Sylva police, as required by the town’s ordinance governing taxi services, screened and checked Tim Crabtree’s driving record and physical health and declared him fit to transport passengers.

“I think it is a service that has been needed for a long time,” said Commissioner Stacy Knotts, whose husband, Gibbs Knotts, teaches at the university.

The business received a 4-0 vote of approval by commissioners. Danny Allen was not at the meeting, the second one in a row he has missed without public explanation.

The brothers said they would offer flat rates instead of calculating charges using a taximeter. They also are considering offering additional services. For instance, taking students to the Asheville airport for a fee.

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