Shuttle to launch new improvements

The Seawolf Shuttle Service is preparing for a major face-lift valued at $25,000 to be implemented before next semester, which will improve how students are bused to and fro through traffic and snow.

The Union of Students first began to look at remodeling shuttle services during an Oct. 8, 2004 meeting.

Two covered shelters costing just under $10,000 have been purchased to keep waiting riders out of the weather. One is positioned in front of the Fine Arts Building. The second will be erected outside of the Campus Bookstore.

Students, staff and shuttle service employees are asking for more shuttles with larger capacities and timely well-posted schedules.

Cyndi Spear, associate vice chancellor of Facilities and Campus Services, said larger buses aren’t practical and shuttles cost a lot.

“Buses costing $60,000 are hard to do, and big buses can’t turn corners on the main campus. We are expecting to buy one [14 passenger shuttle] this fiscal year, and are planning to have it going by next fall.”

As far as riding the bus itself, Spear said she does so daily, since she needs to be all over the main campus and her office is on the far east side of campus.

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“I like riding the shuttles to see how the drivers are doing and seeing how the people are,” she said.

The shuttles are running in the second busiest transit mode of the city. The shuttle drivers are working on getting down to 15 or 10-minute intervals, Spear said.

“The major difference between the Seawolf Shuttle and the People Mover is our drivers get to know the route and where the high attendance rates are. It creates a home-grown feeling.”

Student Body President Anthony Rivas enjoys the current system, but voiced concerns about the shuttle service.

“I like how it runs,” Rivas said. “But it’s not fun having to wait out in the freezing cold when the shuttles are running late. We should have more buses.”

Shuttle drivers say they have a hard time meeting the bus schedules because of vehicles parking in shuttle stopping zones and bumper-to-bumper traffic around the Fine Arts Building.

“The solution is just getting more shuttles,” said Tyson Robinson, two-year shuttle supervisor. “The routes, which are kind of like a figure eight, are as good as we can get them right now. Cars parked in the stopping zones just don’t care.”

The most common complaint voiced by students is buses not showing up.

“Students call and complain about buses not going by the posted zone. The bus drivers watch each other and say they did. Who do you say is wrong or right in that situation?” Robinson said.

He noted that the students are friendly and haven’t caused any problems in relation to the shuttle buses running on time, but he didn’t understand why more of the UAA population doesn’t take advantage of the free parking at University Center and ride the shuttles over to the main campus.

“It would cut down on the traffic that holds the shuttles up, especially around the Fine Arts Building,” Robinson said.

For Robert Lipinski, of the UAA custodial department, the words shuttle bus bring to mind standing out in the cold.

“The boss wants to know where you are, and you have to say ‘waiting for a shuttle bus.’ They are five minutes late, sometimes more,” Lipinski said.

Robert Scott, a junior in human services management, said until covered shelters are available at all shuttle stops, buses should have to wait five minutes so people have time to get from the buildings into the shuttles.

Spear said that buses only stop two minutes to keep to the time schedule.

“I haven’t had a problem during the spring and fall,” Scott said. “But during summer semester I started taking the People Mover from University Center because I get so frustrated. I can’t understand what time they’re supposed to be where and I don’t know what their route is.”

Spear said signs and posted routes are going to replace the current ones.

“New signs priced for $1,000 will be implemented before the next semester. We can and will improve signs.”