Students grumble about cross-campus bus system

By Sarah Hetherington

Lingering problems with the new bus system continue to frustrate students and campus commuters.

The University implemented a new busing system this summer, adding numbered CTA buses and direction-based routes to replace last year’s lettered buses.

Third-year Robert Guth, former chair of the IHC’s transportation committee, said he worked last year with Brian Shaw, director of Campus Transportation and Parking, and Debbie Garfi, transportation operations administrator, to solve recurring problems.

“I came to the meetings with Brian Shaw and Debbie Garfi with a huge list of complaints I’d gotten from students and the IHC that I really wanted to address,” Guth said. “By the end of the year, there was not a single thing on that list that hadn’t been addressed in a really substantial way.”

Guth said amendments to the old system, such as eliminating infrequently used routes, rerouting and instituting regular bus departures every 20 minutes from in front of the Regenstein Library, were intended to make the bus system easier to use.

Shaw said the past system of CTA routes around the University was unsuccessful. The new CTA system is simplified and open to both the campus community and neighborhood residents.

Nonetheless, complaints have flooded Shaw’s inbox in response to these changes.

“The vast majority of e-mails have been very thoughtfully written regarding a late bus or a bus that failed to pick up a passenger,” Shaw said. “Some e-mails have mentioned over-crowded conditions at certain times and days that we have addressed with extra buses. We take all communications very seriously and work with CTA and our evening bus contractor to investigate all concerns and take corrective action when necessary.”

Second-year Charles Stephen Thompson, current chair of the transportation committee of the IHC, said inadequate bus size now poses a significant problem.

“The buses are too full—that’s a huge complaint,” he said. “In the mornings, there will be around 100 students trying to get on one bus. The CTA was supposed to get articulated buses, but they did not.”

Articulated buses bend in the middle and can accommodate additional passengers.

To address these issues, buses have been added to the #171 route during morning peak hours and from 6 to 8 p.m., as well as to the #172 route during the morning rush. A second bus has been added to the Central Route from 6 to 9 p.m., and the route has been shortened to turn north on South Ellis Avenue instead of going west to South Cottage Grove Avenue.

Other complaints have focused on the evening buses, which apparently show up late or not at all. Thompson said new, larger buses will arrive in two weeks for the route that services the Shoreland.

By the end of December, CTA buses will run exclusively on the campus, meaning that only large, full-scale buses will service the neighborhood rather than the current shuttles.

Thompson said administrators hope that more employees ride the University bus system so that car traffic and parking issues will decrease.

“In the past, we’ve just added routes when there have been problems,” Thompson said. “Now we’re actually trying to address the problems more fully. There are kinks, but we are trying to work them out.”