February 2, 2007

Fix the bus system

Monday’s weather forecast predicts a high of nine degrees Fahrenheit along with snow showers and wind. Accordingly, many students will attempt to ride the bus to campus. Unacceptably, too many students will be left behind in the harsh cold.

This might seem a petty issue to some, but not for the hundreds of students who live off campus. This problem is only exacerbated by the onset of extreme winter weather. Buses continue to arrive late, if at all, and often, groups of waiting students are simply passed by buses already packed to capacity. Missed buses and delayed routes force riders to stand outside for as long as 30 minutes at a time, and some students now pay for taxicabs rather than continuing to wait for buses that may never come. The consequences of these failings are substantial, making many students late for class and subjecting everyone bold enough to wait outside to the bitter winds of winter.

The Transportation Office has offered explanations and excuses since September, when the new bus system was initiated. Students were told that the U of C was petitioning the CTA for more buses and that any inconsistencies in the system were the birth pangs of a successful program. But at this pointand with temperatures this coldstudents cannot continue to wait for real solutions in addition to the buses that pass them by.

It is unacceptable that the Transportation Office did not foresee an increase in ridership as temperatures fell. While Shoreland residents, for instance, may enjoy walking to campus during autumn or spring, the current cold conditions have driven them to a bus system that too often drives them nowhere. As a result, the bus system has proven least responsive at the very moment when its services are most in demand. If possible, this situation must be improved immediately. The Transportation Office needs to reallocate its resources, petition for emergency funding, or strenuously lobby the CTA for shorter wait times. The status quo cannot continue.

In response to past questions, the Transportation Office and Student Government leaders have repeatedly touted the bus complaint system, urging commuters to report their dissatisfaction. A week ago today, SG Vice President for Administration Donny Copeland said students have been very happy” with the bus system, a belief he based on the idea that complaints have virtually stopped.” If students have stopped voicing their views, however, it is only because they have ceased to believe that their complaints will cause change. Consequently, administrators should realize the need for immediate action by looking at the lines of students left behind, not just their e-mail inboxes.