By Paula Harman
Published: Monday, October 11, 2010
With 16 routes, 80 buses and thousands of students riding to, from and around campus every day, Transportation Services at Texas A&M has a big responsibility to the student body. While some students are not satisfied with the system, there are ways to make efficient use of it.
One of the common problems that students are worried about is overcrowding on the buses.
"I rode Route 36 for three years, and the most common issue I had was the buses passing us by in the morning. The buses were so crowded that they would just have to drive past and everyone would have to wait for the next one," said Lauren Lewis, a senior biomedical science major.
Eric Williams, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and Transportation Services employee, said they are aware of this problem and do everything possible to help alleviate overcrowding.
"During high traffic times, extra buses are added to the routes that need them," Williams said. "Often times, the routes are still crowded, but these extra buses help out a lot during peak hours."
With this in mind, students might consider another option, which is the park-and-ride service. Buses stop at Post Oak Mall on Route 27 and First Baptist Church of College Station on Route 34.
Senior bioenvironmental science major Caleb Holt uses the on-campus buses, but he is skeptical about whether the buses are running as efficiently as they can.
"Whenever you are depending on the bus to get you to class on time, if the bus is more than five minutes late, it will put you off schedule. Just last week I was waiting for the 12:11 bus on route three. It didn't show up until 12:25 and it put everyone behind schedule."
Williams acknowledges the fact that there is always the possibility of a mistake, but that for the most part, the system is running smoothly.
"As a driver who works for [Transportation Services] and knows the system, I feel we are doing the best that we can and that the system is working successfully," Williams said. "At any given time, there are around 70 buses running."
However, Williams said with a limited number of students working, it is difficult to fill all of these needs.
"We are temporarily understaffed at the moment, which is common near the beginning of the school year, because we lose a lot of workers when they graduate. Transportation Services is always hiring. It's an amazing place to work, you get to make your own schedule and work whenever you want."
Another concern Holt expressed has to do with the student drivers.
"The reason why my bus was so late last week was because the driver made a mistake. With all of the money that we [as students] are spending on the buses, maybe there should be more training for the drivers," Holt said.
Williams said driver preparation is extensive. Training lasts between three and four weeks and consists of taking a series of driving tests, practicing on a course and driving the routes. During the training, drivers earn a Class B commercial driver's license.
"The training was fun," Williams said. "And once you are certified, you start driving with an experienced driver who rides with you until he or she feels like you are ready to be on your own."
There are ways students can make better use of the bus system.
"There are ‘time spots' that are in place to keep us on schedule. The time on the schedule means that the bus will not leave that spot before that time, but it does not necessarily mean that it will be there exactly at that time," Williams said. "To make sure that you make it to your classes on time, it is best to look at the time on the schedule at which the bus is supposed to arrive at its destination. The buses usually even arrive at their destinations a little early, so if you make sure that this time is before your class starts, then should not be late. For example, if your class starts at 11:10, and you are riding route 22, Excel, look at the Trigon arrival times and find one that will give you enough time to get to class."
As no system is perfect, sometimes mistakes are unavoidable. There is always a chance that an unusual amount of traffic, a high number of students to pick up, or even red lights will cause delays in the system, Williams said. However, students can be sure that Transportation Services has worked out a system to best ensure that students can get where they need to be, from a number of different places, on time, he said, and access to the route times is readily available.
"Everything is posted online. There is even a mobile site that you can access from your phone - m.tamu.edu/busroute. This makes it easier to check times from anywhere."