The University will use a new bus system for the Fall 2021 semester that uses six routes instead of nine with a reduced number of stops, said senior director of the Department of Transportation Services Jack E. Molenaar.
These routes, which have been named after colors, are shorter than the routes previously used before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and will use the same number of buses, he said. They are the same routes that were released last summer and used for a month at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester before getting replaced due to a lack of passengers.
The C route from the Stadium West parking lot to the Hill Center has been eliminated, while the new Purple route combines the A and H routes that were for going between the College Avenue and Busch campuses, Molenaar said. The new Scarlet route combines the EE and F routes formerly used for Cook and Douglass campuses and the College Avenue campus.
“The pandemic and its requirement of spacing and need to reduce loads forced us to look at the bus system in a new way,” Molenaar said. “The bus routes were crowded, too many stops and inefficient. By rethinking the routes and how best to serve the campuses we retooled the entire route system.”
He said the new routes should make the buses less crowded, reducing fuel usage and emissions and increasing the buses’ life expectancy. Due to the routes being shorter with fewer stops, buses are expected to arrive approximately twice as often as before. He said this means passengers will get to their destination more quickly.
Samantha Artuso, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the sudden changes to the bus routes will make transitioning back to campus life difficult.
“I am not a fan of changing the names of the bus routes to colors because I already had to learn what they were originally and now I need to learn them again,” Artuso said. “It probably won't be that big of a deal, but it's just a small little adjustment we will have to make in addition to all the larger adjustments with returning to campus.”
Several students said the University should not have reduced the number of bus stops due to the likelihood of people crowding together at the remaining stops to get onto buses. Merna Ibrahim, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, said overcrowding at bus stops already existed when there more of them, such as at the Scott Hall bus stop.
“It’s extremely counterintuitive,” she said. “Walking from class to class or class to extremely overcrowded bus stop will qualify as an expedition.”
The Daily Targum previously reported none of the bus stops on the new routes are on Cook campus. Molenaar said the remaining Lipman Hall bus stop is technically on Cook campus, even though the website for the new routes does not include Cook campus in its descriptions for each route. Previously, Lipman Hall was one of the stops on the REXL and REXB routes, which provided bus service to Douglass campus.
He said the walk time for Starkey Apartments, the furthest residence hall on Cook campus from the Lipman Hall bus stop, is approximately 13 minutes.
“The bus stops that remain are no further than what a student may walk now to get to classrooms, dining halls or campus centers based on where they live or park,” Molenaar said.
Artuso said she is disappointed by the lack of stops on Cook campus due to having classes and other commitments there. She said she would like a return to the previous routes with a few additional buses for routes that had the most issues with overcrowding.
In addition to the lack of stops on Cook campus, Ibrahim said it will be difficult to get around on Douglass campus next semester due to the bus stops being close together instead of spread out. Students living in residential areas such as the Henderson Apartments on Douglass campus will have to cross the campus to get to and from bus stops, she said.
To provide more transportation choices, Molenaar said the University will bring more electric scooters to campus next semester.
Liliana Passalacqua, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said that even though scooters and bicycles are an option, they are not suitable for traveling from the College Avenue campus and Cook or Douglass campuses to Livingston campus due to having to cross Route 18, a highway.
“During the colder months or when it’s raining or snowing those other options aren’t realistic,” she said.
Passalacqua said a covered pedestrian bridge would be helpful in addressing this and encouraging bicycle and scooter travel. She said the University should also consider adding more buses to its routes.
Julia Meints, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she was surprised by the bus system switch and disappointed that she had to relearn the bus system, having gotten used to the old one just before the University’s transition to online instruction.
“Hopefully, it will make everyone's commute faster because there are fewer stops per campus, but I will probably have to budget more time for walking on the bigger campuses and face the reality of having to walk longer to bus stops at night in the cold,” Meints said.