The vast majority of the visitors to downtown who traveled from Van Buren on the excursion train liked the experience and said they would do it again.

University of Arkansas - Fort Smith students recently completed a class project where they studied and researched various aspects of downtown Van Buren to come up with ideas and suggestions for improvements. Students are part of the Business College’s Marketing Research class taught by Assistant Professor of Marketing Dr. Elise Riker.

Students made presentations to the public at the King Opera House on Nov. 28 and Nov. 30.

Data analysis by UAFS students Kimberly Rosson, Justin Kitten, Zach Partin and Chris Eckes revealed that 24 percent of the excursion train visitors rode the trolley operated by the Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission.

The analysis found that the trolley is a resource that attracts more people to the historic sites in Van Buren.

Of the trolley riders, 80 percent visited a historic site while only 16 percent of the non-trolley riders visited a historic site.

The excursion train is owned and operated by Arkansas and Missouri Railroad and travels to the Van Buren depot on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. It has three routes - Van Buren to Winslow, Van Buren to Springdale and Springdale to Van Buren.

Fifty-nine percent of the excursion train riders who were surveyed were 55-plus in age, 29 percent 41 to 55, 7 percent 26-40 and 5 percent 0-25.

Students said the main recommendation they received was to have more stores open on train days and more activities as travelers wait for the train.

The survey also recommended the train staff encourage customers to ride the trolley as they exit the train and for the City of Van Buren to create a historical video for visitors to be shown at the King Opera House.

NEXT: Improving the atmospheric qualities of downtown Van Buren.