Inconsistent bus schedule frustrates students

By Tatyana Bazard, Correspondent
On March 6, 2019

Bull Runner drivers’ lunch and bathroom breaks are creating more of a concern for students than one would expect.                                                          

Some students are voicing their concerns with the lack of accuracy, which is all due to Parking and Transportation Services (PATS) being understaffed. Students use the mobile “MyUSF” app to track the Bull Runner’s routes and estimated time frames.

According to the Assistant Director of PATS Marie Bowen, 80 full-time employees are needed in order to timely meet the needs of students.

However, there are currently only 50 on staff.

Buses are arriving at stops every 30 to 40 minutes. Bowen said the goal is to have a bus come every 15 minutes but they’re “not there yet.”

“We’re constantly trying to hire people but it takes time,” Bowen said. “Training for the permit takes two to three months and then you train for the license. When people find out how long it takes, they leave. That’s our issue — it’s an ongoing process. We can’t hire just anybody.”

However, it has not helped Namira Iqbal, a freshman studying computer science, who takes the C-route.

She says that the app does not show when drivers take breaks which only confuses her because she’s not sure if she should try to catch another bus.

“I would like to know if the drivers are on a break or if there is a change between the shift,” Iqbal said. “There should be a feature that shows a delay in the time or a prediction, so you can already expect the delay and be prepared beforehand.”

Bowen said that PATS is working on resolving these issues on the app. She said that she wants to communicate to students when drivers are taking bathroom breaks or lunch breaks, but “needs resources” to do so, such as new buses. She said that drivers are only allowed to use the Marshall Student Center, the Library and the PATS office for bathroom breaks.

“Students will see the breaks in the morning from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m,” Bowen said. “That is when they’re having lunch and fueling the bus. They will also see it peak in the evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.”

According to the Bull Runner’s transportation information and guidelines, “service times may vary depending on…situations along the route.”

Sometimes, Iqbal chooses to walk when she realizes that the Bull Runner isn’t coming or if it shows that it will come late. For this reason, she’ll occasionally arrive to work late.

“I’m reaching work 15 minutes late which is an issue for me,” Iqbal said. “If I see that the bus coming to the library is late, I’ll just walk an extra 10 minutes to the (MSC) for an earlier time.”

Carla Edouard, a junior studying health science shares a similar experience.

“They don’t wait for people to come onto the bus,” Edouard said. “There are people running trying to catch the bus. They should wait maybe for like two, three minutes when they arrive at the stop like the MSC but they stop for like five seconds.”

Edouard said the Bull Runner is a great resource to have but in her experience, it has been unreliable.

“Problems I’ve seen with the Bull Runner is that it’s unpredictable,” Edouard said. “It’s inconsistent. It’s not reliable. Basically, it looks like they’re doing what they want to do.”

Edouard, who mainly uses the A-route, would like for the Bull Runner to not “disappear”.

“They have to be more on time and more serious on the accuracy of when they are going to arrive,” Edouard said. “Don’t disappear. There needs to be consistency and they need to come frequently.”

According to Bowen, when drivers change shifts they log off and the bus will disappear from the app until a new driver logs on. However, with a low staff, PATS aren’t able to switch shifts quickly. This delays the arrival time of the buses.

“We’re planning to work on these issues in the summer,” Bowen said. “Right now, we’re focused on getting the right staff who has our students safety in mind.”

A change that Jennifer Amaraibi, a graduate student studying global sustainability, would like to see is for the Bull Runner to let students know if they’re arriving, especially on her C-route, which stops behind her off-campus apartment.

“Sometimes you’re waiting for a bus then when you see it on the app it says out of service, so you have to wait for another bus to come,” said Amaraibi. “I would also like the Bull Runner to send notifications to students if they are not coming to that bus stop at all because we are waiting for the bus to come but the bus would take a whole different route.”

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