Get on the bus, if there’s still room

Ridership for September went up from 449,899 for the same month last year.

Emma Carew

On a crisp fall day, the comfort and warmth of snuggling up to a complete stranger who is probably plugged in or zoned out should be coming along in five to seven minutes.

Campus buses are a service offered by University Parking and Transportation Services.

Although Campus Connectors run from St. Paul to the West Bank on a continuous loop from 7 a.m. to midnight, some students say the buses are too crowded.

Ridership for September was 467,838 on the Campus Shuttle system, which includes the Campus Connectors, the Washington Avenue Bridge Circulator and the Campus Circulators, Parking and Transportation Services marketing manager Mary Sienko said.

This is a 4 percent increase from last year’s 449,899 September ridership, Sienko said.

There are nine buses that run the full route from the St. Paul Campus to the West Bank, and four that stop limitedly, Transit Manager Bill Stahlmann said.

University Parking and Transportation Services has transit employees that track ridership very closely, Sienko said.

“Sometimes they’re on the bus, sometimes they’re following the bus and sometimes they’re just sitting at the stop making sure the bus comes on time,” she said.

Environmental health graduate student Deanna Scher said she was frustrated in the first few weeks of school with overcrowding of the bus.

Scher said she saw a driver being rude to students who were asking questions about the bus system on the first day of class. But she was unsure how file a complaint to Parking and Transportation Services, she said.

“People aren’t trying to get super close to you, but they can’t help it,” first-year psychology student Sara Sandberg-Thoma said. “People are basically just focused on getting to class.”

Animal science senior Jake Kretzschmar said he has classes in St. Paul, and the bus in the morning often is crowded.

“It doesn’t bother me much,” he said, “but it might bother other people, especially if they have to stand.”

Retail merchandising sophomore Alsie Wagner said it’s frustrating when the buses are crowded because people “want a little room to breathe.”

Sienko said Parking and Transportation Services welcomes all comments and suggestions from students, staff members and faculty members. The quickest way to contact the service is e-mail, she said.

Many students agreed that the buses are crowded, especially right after larger classes let out on the West Bank or near Coffman Union.

“There are times when we’re standing in front of the white line because there are so many people,” said former Minnesota Student Association facilities and housing committee chairman Tom Zearley.

The white line is on the floor of the bus near the driver, and indicates where it is safe for passengers to stand.

Co-director of the Disabled Student Cultural Center John Lukanen said that as a blind student, it is tough sometimes when the buses are crowded and people are moving around and trying to get out of each other’s way.

Lukanen said he remembers not knowing where he was the first few times he rode the bus because the drivers don’t always announce the stops.

Drivers on the transit buses are hired through First Student Inc. and receive extensive training, both in the classroom and behind the wheel, said Assistant Contract Manager Don Rollefson.

He said announcing the stops is not legally required, but that both the University and First Student Inc. requests it of their drivers.

“Some (drivers) are better about it than others,” he said.

First-year management information systems student J.Michael Edwards-Toepel said he has generally enjoyed riding the buses.

“People are willing to help you out,” he said. “Minnesota nice tends to hold on the buses.”

With cold and flu season coming up, students need to be conscious of their hygiene and overall health, Boynton Health Service Public Health and Marketing Director Dave Golden said.

Buses are environments where influenza and colds can be transmitted, he said, but that’s true of most places on campus.

Wherever you pack people in, it’s hard not to get coughed on, Golden said.

Boynton and the Minnesota Department of Health have suggestions for how to stay healthy during this time of year.

Rest and sleep help keep the immune system bolstered, Golden said.

Because alcohol is a depressant, it will also depress the immune system.

“You’re even setting yourself up (if you drink),” Golden said. “You’re more likely to get infected if you’ve been drinking.”

Regular hand washing does a lot, he said. Soap and water work well, as do instant hand sanitizers.

A balanced, healthy diet is also helpful, and anything you can do to manage stress will also help, Golden said.

Additionally, Boynton will offer flu shots to students at high risk, but might extend the service to anyone who wants one later, he said.

The individual drivers of the buses are responsible for maintaining cleanliness on the buses, Rollefson said.

“They try to keep (the buses) presentable,” he said.

The buses get swept at least daily, and are washed and mopped on an as-needed, weather-permitting basis, and get a thorough interior wash during school break periods, he said.

First-year business student Paul Ekman said he prepared for his first trip on the bus because he had heard horror stories about other students ending up all the way in St. Paul.

But, he said, riding the bus “is very convenient, and it gets me places easily.”