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Shuttle services don’t offer solutions

24 November 2013 By Sam Shelton, Staff Writer No Comments

Junior geography and environmental planning major Austin Davis said that in previous years the off-campus shuttles “weren’t much of a hassle to ride,” but that this year he has encountered some problems.

“I’ve experienced drivers not waiting at stops long enough, drivers taking the wrong routes and [the shuttles] becoming so overcrowded that the ride is not only longer and slower, but uncomfortable/possibly dangerous,” Davis said.

Davis, who has contacted Parking and Transportation Services with complaints three times this semester, claims to have had little success working with the department to find solutions to such problems.

“After I was finished, [the Parking and Transportation representative] could just repeat that my complaints were valid, and that they will be working to fix them,” Davis said, “He then expressed his apologies for my troubles, and explained that he could understand why I was so upset about the system.”

According to Pam Mooney, Director of Parking and Transportation Services, complaints to the department are generally met this way, and with suggestions about scheduling and student time-management.

“Don’t wait until the very last shuttle that’s going to get you to class. Take an earlier shuttle so that, in case something happens, you have a little bit of flexible time in there, some cushion,” Mooney said. “But, overall, the shuttles run very well. We have a Nextbus system where we can actually track them and see where they are, when they are, what the ridership is, how many people and everything.”

Davis also notes that the shuffling of shuttle drivers, while not the root of the problem, may contribute toward some of the discourse he’s experienced with the transportation.

“[Parking and Transportation] said that they had been hiring and firing and training new drivers, which would explain the wrong routes, but he could do nothing to make the routes more frequent,” Davis said.

Technically considered “heavy equipment operators,” the shuttle and bus drivers are noted as holding state positions. While the hiring process for potential drivers isn’t grueling, it does require applicants to have held a commercial driver’s license with at least two years experience of driving that type of vehicle before the process can go any further.

“Once they get past that, we interview them like any other job. We interview them, we see what their background is and everything and if we feel they’re suitable and somebody we want to be on the operation, we’ll bring them on board,” Mooney said.

In addition to the experience garnered by driving the same kind of vehicle for more than two years, Mooney notes that there are a few training practices specific to the University.

“Obviously they have to learn the routes, so we have to teach them the routes. There are certain things as a campus that we do,” Mooney said. “We’re very service oriented and everything so we make sure that they learn the different buildings and where certain popular services are.”

Mooney, who admits that the department does get a few complaints, maintains that the services provided on and off-campus are generally efficient and says that the most common complaints concern timeliness, which can be difficult to control once the shuttles and buses are already in circulation.

“The complaints we typically get are that ‘the bus is running late.’ Unfortunately, we’re sort of at the whim of traffic and accidents and things like that so we do our best. If we have to modify schedules we look at that and try and tweet them so they’re pretty reliable,” Mooney said, “We have between an 85 to 90 percent on time rate, which is pretty good. We want to make it better, but we’re running into some construction issues and things this year.”

Davis, who agrees that something in the system ought to change, has some suggestions.

“I just feel like for one of the state’s largest public schools, there should be a much better shuttle system. During rush hour/early morning/late night/Tiger route the Nextbus App just doesn’t work,” Davis said. “There should be more routes both on and off campus, because taking the shuttle from the [Center for the Arts] to West Village should theoretically be shorter than walking, but it’s not.”

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