Buses

Erin Ghere

The sight of shivering people crowded at bus shelters, waiting for a mobile, maroon and white heat-wave is becoming chillingly familiar.
The drastic temperature change signalling the beginning of winter quarter has caused increasing numbers of students and staff to seek refuge on the Campus Connector buses.
In 1997, Campus Connector ridership climbed by more than 42,000 people from November to January. This year is no exception.
“One thing we’re dealing with now is an overall 20 percent increase in ridership,” said Cari Hatcher, spokeswoman for Parking and Transportation Services.
“It’s quicker to walk, but in this weather it’s just too cold,” said Molly Collins, a University graduate student.
Sophomore journalism major Angela Cabreana said she takes the buses more often during the winter.
“First, I don’t want to walk all the way, and second, because it’s too cold,” she said.
The Campus Connectors load and unload University students and staff at more than a dozen stops between the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses.
“Depending on the time of the day and year, we have up to three times the regular number of buses running,” said Hatcher.
Even with the increased number of buses, the time students wait to be picked up can be more than 15 minutes.
Collins said she didn’t have to wait at all to catch the bus, while Cabreana said she has waited close to 20 minutes; often, she said, full buses pass her by.
Bus drivers routinely make rider counts at major stops along the route. When they report that numbers are increasing, more buses are dispatched.
Counts are taken at key stops such as Blegen Hall, Coffman Union, the intersection of Washington Avenue and Union Street, the transitway, the fairgrounds and the Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative.
The drivers do not need to take counts at each stop because many of the same people stay on the bus at the smaller stops, Hatcher said.
Ryder Student Transport owns and operates the Campus Connector buses, each with a standing and sitting capacity of 60 to 70 riders.
“Once the buses are over capacity, safety is an issue,” Hatcher said.
“When people are smooshed into those buses, you wonder what might happen if one gets in an accident,” Cabreana said.
Although many students ride the buses to avoid the cold, some chose to brave the weather.
“This isn’t cold to me,” said Jennifer Lipke, a graduate student in nursing. Lipke hails from northern Minnesota and walks even on the coldest days for the exercise.