Students new and old waited for the new Tiger Transit buses as they crossed the country from California to campus in early August. However, three months later, students reported several qualms with the new buses, as well as the Tiger Transit system.
In a recent Plainsman poll, students submitted their top issues with the transit system. Participants indicated that they had encountered problems with new and old buses.
Monica Langan, senior in biosystems engineering, takes the only stop near her residence – the second stop on the South Auburn Road. It does not pay for on-campus parking and therefore depends entirely on the transit system. Langan reported a lack of buses on his route and an irregular schedule, with buses arriving at 7:10 am and 7:40 am, the latter being too unreliable for its first classes.
âI hate taking the risk of taking public transit to go to class,â Langan said. “I will never bring it home except because I have time for it to take time.”
Langan noted that although his residence is far from campus, there are a maximum of two buses on his route.
âIt is true that we don’t have as many buses on the route as we would like due to a driver shortage,â said Chris Harris, associate director of transportation. âEvery day we may be missing five or six buses out of the 57 that we normally use. We’re not aloneâ¦ Many bus properties, including Lee County Schools and Auburn Town Schools, are suffering from the same shortageâ¦ We are actively working to have more drivers in place soon.
Langan said many students – who have more buses on their route – can walk to class if they miss public transit, but she can’t. Public transit takes at least 20 minutes from its stop to get to campus on days of normal to light traffic.
âIf I miss a bus or the bus is late, I absolutely cannot get to class on time,â Langan said. “A bus will have to leave my stop 30-35 minutes before my class to allow enough time for traffic to walk to the classâ¦ I just don’t trust public transit to arrive on time.”
If she misses a bus or transit is late, Langan is forced to walk back to her apartment, start her car, and drive about seven minutes to Auburn Church of Christ. From there, she will hike 10 to 12 minutes to class.
âThere are a lot of things that will slow down or speed up the time it takes for a bus to travel its entire route,â Harris said. âSome of the factors are passenger load, traffic, construction, traffic lights on. [red versus green], detours, and others. We do our best to keep the buses on track, but it is inevitable that some buses will be late, especially during rush hour which is also rush hour. “
âBuses arrive lateâ was the most answered option (78%) in the Plainsman survey.
Special Education Junior Sal Vicusi takes the West Glenn Line to class. Viscusi said the biggest problems he has encountered are crowded buses and buses arriving late. He said he was late for class “thanks to Tiger Transit,” but the teachers usually grant him grace as long as he manages to text a friend.
âRecently, I’ve found that if the bus isn’t at a stop, I can usually walk to campus faster than the bus can get me there,â Viscusi said. “I thinkâ¦ the school has to take into account the times when students arrive on campus and when they leave campus. We need more buses at lunchtime and rush hour.
Depending on where a student lives, Harris said this could be “a very true statement.”
âWe’re running out of lunchtime buses,â Harris said. âSince there are two rush hours – in the morning and in the evening – we all have the buses running during the morning rush hourâ¦ Because the evening rush hour is more spread out, [with] students leaving at different times, fewer buses are required.
Emily Love, senior in geology, takes the South Auburn bus route and, like Langan, does not have a parking pass. She said she saw an inconsistent schedule, lack of air conditioning, only one bus running on her route, and often a bus’s location is not available on DoubleMap.
âNot enough buses on my routeâ and âBuses don’t run when I need them (ie.
“In the afternoon, the buses sometimes stop until the stop, then turn on their decommissioning sign, no explanation is offered, and I have to wait another 20 minutes for the next bus. “said Love.” I waited 40 minutes one day.
This is due to the decrease in ridership, said Harris.
âThe buses will complete their route, move all passengers, and then be taken out of service,â Harris said. âThis happens at different times depending on the route, but in the afternoon the buses are put out of service from 3, then 4, then 5, leaving one bus per trip until 8 pm. “
Love said she had never been late for class before as she arrived at the stop 30 minutes to an hour before her class start time.
âIt seems like a long time, but I almost was late before,â she said.
Additionally, Love said the bus on her route was often stuck behind other buses in the student center loop with students waiting on board. She asked the University to better manage the process of loading and unloading buses in the loop, or to address drivers who leave their buses unattended.
âI have been in Auburn since 2017 and have seen a decline in the quality of transit service over the years,â Love said. âI appreciate the University providing transportation, but I think there is definitely room for improvement. ”
Harris said transportation services “do our best for our students.”
âWe are actively working to hire more drivers and train them and get them on the road as quickly as possible,â Harris said.
Second year education student Grace Purnell takes the Magnolia line up and down at 160 Ross. Out-of-service buses, which seem to sporadically light up their signs when they stop, she said, have been her biggest problem. Purnell said she experiences this phenomenon at least three times a week.
âWhen I run into this problem, I usually have to hurry up and walk to class,â she said.
Nicole Licavoli, a second year mechanical engineering student, also takes the Magnolia line. Several times she has encountered buses on her route that do not have their tracker turned on, so DoubleMap will not show there is one nearby. She calls waiting for a bus “a guessing game”. Once, she had to walk to an exam which she ultimately failed, due to a missing bus.
âYes, Doublemap has been inconsistent and we are workingâ¦ to resolve the issue,â Harris said. “This will not be completely fixed for the spring semester, but again, we are aware and are working to resolve the issues.”
Buses sometimes arrive up to 10 minutes late, which Nicole attributes to a “fluctuation”. She suggested that the University create a better system for bus arrival times, so that students could “be able to judge an hour more than just guess.” Additionally, Nicole and her sister Allison said they found that the trackers are not controlled by the bus drivers, which is another amendment the University could make.
Arnav Mather, junior in electrical engineering, uses the Old Row and West Glenn lines. He said DoubleMap is often inaccurate, that bus drivers do not leave at an appropriate time for students to go to class and that buses stop at inappropriate times, “leaving someone to walk to and from buildings and dwellings late at night or in the evening. “
âI spent most of my time last week at [a] conference shopping for new tracking systems, âsaid Harris. âWe are working to get a much better product for the future. I would suggest for safe transportation outside of transit hours to use Van Safety & Security service or AU Lyft service. Details are on the campus website.
Mather said there should be a driver on each bus at all times, to avoid overcrowded transits, and a more âseamlessâ approach to loading and unloading. He also suggested better driver training.
âThis public transportation system is the most inefficient form of transportation on campus,â Mather said. âIt’s much faster to walk to a place than to wait for a bus to show up on time and leave on time. “
Heather Mann, senior in mechanical engineering, takes the Samford Shug line. She said this particular line combines with Old Row between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., sharing a single bus. She said the timing of the exchange was “very inconsistent” causing her to constantly miss the commute she needed.
âIn order to cover everything during the entire day of duty, we have to combine some routes at the end of the day,â Harris said. âIt’s not ideal, but that’s what we need to do right now. The timing will be adjusted depending on the drivers we have that day. We will not combine routes until we have to.
Mann once left campus and took the North College Line to Copper Beech. What should have been a 20 minute ride ended up taking an hour, due to unforeseen traffic and roadblocks. She said the delayed time estimates and the resulting lack of notice to students hurt students who “often rely on a consistent bus schedule to get to class or work on time.”
Jordan Branchman, a junior in political science, takes the North Donahue line to and from Donahue Crossing and occasionally uses the College Loop for his work. He said he had already been late for work due to late transits.
He also said the DoubleMap app proves unreliable in the evening when only one bus is running and the estimated time of arrival is usually incorrect. He said updating this ETA would help reassure him that he had some homecoming in the evening.
âThe overall longevity of the routes and the time it takes for a bus to visit each stop has been a huge concern for me,â Branchman said. âOn average, it sometimes takes thirty minutes for some transits to complete a complete route back to campus.
âAlso, I’ve noticed that some buses will wait 5-8 minutes at a stop, I guess the average time it takes for other buses on the same route to get back to campus; however, from the rider’s point of view, this creates frustration. If I have class or work at 8 a.m., I prefer not to wait for a stalled bus at another stop, regardless of the intention or reason for the extended wait.
Harris said transportation services appreciate the students’ patience.
“[We] ask them to be very attentive to their class schedules, to get out early for the buses and not to wait until the last minute to get to the bus stop, âhe said. âWe have supervisors at the two campus transit hubs to help clarify any confusion over afternoon route combinations. We also have a customer service desk located at the Student Center next to the police station. “