The LOOP – UMass Students Experience Downtown New Bedford

A growing number of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth students are visiting New Bedford’s downtown shops, restaurants, museums and night spots thanks to the LOOP, a free bus service.
The LOOP not only helps UMass students travel between the Dartmouth campus and the Star Store campus, but it gives them a chance to enjoy the businesses of downtown New Bedford.
The New Bedford Economic Development Council is spearheading a marketing campaign to attract more students to ride the LOOP downtown; they’re working in partnership with the University, downtown business owners and downtown stakeholders.
“The LOOP is a great example of partnership and an excellent opportunity for New Bedford’s downtown business community to define itself,” said NBEDC executive director Matthew Morrissey.
“We have a chance to shape various experiences to entice students to visit and enjoy all that downtown has to offer,” he said.
The City of New Bedford and UMass Dartmouth teamed up in the spring of 2008 to test the need for the service with a pilot program—the ridership was so great, the LOOP continued; the schedule now runs during the week throughout the entire academic year.
Buses are provided by the Harbor Development Commission with some runs using SRTA buses.
In October, several marketing outreach programs were lead by the NBEDC. Ten downtown retail businesses, along with the NBEDC, set up information tables at the UMass Dartmouth Campus Center to offer merchandise and promote downtown. LOOP business cards were handed directly to passing students. Individual surveys were taken to gauge student-awareness of the LOOP service and downtown New Bedford. Door hangers will be placed on throughout the dorms.
“When we organized that day at UMass, a lot of students didn’t even realize the LOOP was free— we’re getting the message out that it is free, and that it operates seven days a week,” said Arianna Swink, Owner of TL6 Gallery .
“There are over 40 venues downtown that students can access for free by riding the LOOP—stores, shows, restaurants—basically anything they want to do,” she said.
The NBEDC staff has also hosted two downtown tours for UMass residential directors and assistants. Many, having never visited downtown, were surprised at the amount of retail shops, restaurants, cultural activities and creative locations.
The tour’s two objectives were to excite the leaders about New Bedford and inspire them to promote program activities to the 3,800 student who live on campus.
Following the tours, the students discussed ideas for programming opportunities and ways to create specific experiences like Shop NB, Creative NB and Historic NB.
Mediumstudio designed marketing materials, including brochures, door hangers with the LOOP schedule, and a website, http://www.newbedford.is/theloop/index.html.

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