Since the return of students on campus post-COVID-19, USF’s free on-campus public transportation — the Bull Runner — has seen an increase in riders and a shortage of drivers to transport them.
The Bull Runner driver shortage is majorly inconvenient for students and staff that depend on public transportation. USF should prioritize hiring more drivers to increase the number of buses running and help alleviate the high number of students per bus.
“Ridership definitely was impacted as a result of COVID. Now we come back, the ridership is picking back up again,” Assistant Director of USF Parking and Transportation Services Marie Bowen told The Oracle on Oct. 26.
Students have poured onto campus since classes resumed in person last August, with a record number of 6,919 incoming first-year students on campus for this fall semester, according to an Aug. 25 report released by the USF Newsroom.
This increased enrollment has caused serious traffic on campus this year, a problem every student and staff member has loathed experiencing. By improving the Bull Runner, more of the USF community can take the bus over driving and alleviate traffic.
Unfortunately, the driver shortage has resulted in bus crowding and longer wait times that serve only as a deterrent.
For students like USF junior Sarah Valenti, who don’t have access to a car, the Bull Runner is a necessity. She has frequently witnessed crowded bus stops resulting in students having to wait for the next one and possibly being late to class, work or other on-campus commitments.
“They won’t fill the buses completely, people won’t move all the way back, everybody’s trying to get back to the apartments, [but] you can’t because they won’t push people toward the back of the bus,” Valenti told The Oracle on Oct. 20.
Bowen attributes the crowding and long wait-times to a shortage of bus drivers, and has published hiring campaigns to increase the number of drivers. The campaign encourages students to work for the Bull Runner so they can earn a steady income while also receiving an education.
“Where we do our part to ensure that they can work in an environment that understands their school schedule, and allows them the liberty to go back to school and also earn some income and contribute to the success of their fellow students,” Bowen said.
Bowen’s dedication to the safety of students can be seen in the steps taken to try expanding the workforce of bus drivers on campus, a solution that can allow more buses to run the six routes on campus and can potentially lower the high volume of students on each bus.
USF should prioritize the hiring effort. Students and staff deserve safe, convenient public transportation.