Campus buses frustrate students

Pamela Steinle

Meredith Larson’s patience is wearing thin.

This year, the sophomore art major has watched as many as four Campus Connectors go by while she waits at the Gateway alumni center stop to travel to the West Bank.

It really upsets Larson when the long wait makes her late for class.

“It’s definitely gone downhill since last year,” she said. “I think we need more buses.”

Larson isn’t the only one annoyed with overcrowded buses. During the past three years, Campus Connector ridership has increased 30 percent, but the number of buses running has actually declined.

“I fully admit there’s overcrowding during peak times,” said transit manager Bill Stahlmann.

Last year, as many as 25 buses were in service at one time. Now that number is down to 21.

Stahlmann said he knows students want more buses, but he doesn’t think that will solve the problem.

“What would be the point of more buses? They would just line up,” Stahlmann said.

He said only a certain number of buses can be running at one time; otherwise they end up waiting for each other to load and unload. Already, buses wait to pick up students in front of the St. Paul Student Center.

Parking and Transportation Services promises a Campus Connector every five minutes. This fall the University added nine buses during peak times to try to reduce the time to 2.5 minutes.

Stahlmann said students can help alleviate the overcrowding problem. For example, students can walk short distances instead of riding the Campus Connector.

Students just riding over the river clog the system for those going all the way to St. Paul, Stahlmann said.

Lou Raguse, a sophomore studying journalism, said he is annoyed by “lazy people who ride the connector to every little stop.”

“If I’m going to St. Paul, I should be able to sit down,” Raguse said.

Finance freshman Craig Kurth is one of those people who annoy Raguse.

Kurth waits at Northrop as two or three buses go by before he hops a ride to the West Bank. On occasion he walks the bridge.

“I’m just lazy,” he said.

Misty Williams, a fifth-year senior studying family social science, said there are too many East Bank stops.

She said a St. Paul connector with a more direct route between the campuses would help.

Stahlmann suggested students take advantage of the Metro Transit system.

The University sold more than 11,000 U-Passes this fall. The discounted bus passes give students unlimited ridership on various Metro Transit routes.

But the U-Pass might be partially to blame for the current overcrowding of Campus Connectors.

Stahlmann said the U-Pass and Metro Pass are making people more comfortable with the buses in general, resulting in more people riding the Campus Connector.

“People are seeing buses as a more viable source of transportation,” Stahlmann said.

Parking and Transportation Services is entirely funded by parking revenue. The more people Stahlmann convinces to use the bus instead of driving, the less money is available to fund the Campus Connectors.

But Stahlmann doesn’t see it as a hard choice.

“I’d rather have empty parking spaces,” he said.