52U bus route is welcomed

by Heather Fors

Glen Meyer’s long day at the University ends with a bus ride home to Uptown.
In the past, after 6 p.m. he had to ride the 16U or 16A, which both need a transfer in downtown. But now, with the creation of route 52U, Meyer has a direct ride to Uptown.
The month-old line combines routes 52C and 52L, which don’t run after 6 p.m. The 52U costs $1 and runs every hour between 7 and 10 p.m. On average there are 20 passengers per trip, but that increases every week, said Maria Cone with Metro Transit.
“I love it. It’s very convenient and very fast,” said Meyer, a graduate student studying philosophy. This route is more convenient and a lot less crowded than the route 16 buses, he added.
Riders appreciate the 52U route because it doesn’t force them to transfer.
Sean Michael Viehl, a College of Liberal Arts student, said when he rides the route 16 buses and has to transfer downtown, it takes him 45 minutes to get to Uptown. It takes about half that time on the 52U.
“It’s a lot faster and doesn’t stop at every stoplight along the way,” said Sarah Branson, a 52U rider who works at Carl Becker and Son Violin Shop in Dinkytown.
Branson rides the bus once a week after practicing with the University Health Science Orchestra. She said the 20-minute ride is terrific because getting home would otherwise take an hour.
The only gripe Meyer and Branson have is the trips’ infrequency. However, both said it is better that the route run once per hour than not at all.
A few years ago, the University had an after-hour commuter bus service to Uptown like this new line, said Roger Huss, assistant director of transportation at the University Parking and Transportation Services. But he said it was inconvenient and was cut due to low ridership and budget restraints.
Officials from the University transportation system decided the on-campus services were more vital to the community than extra commuter busses.
“We didn’t have the luxury of experimenting,” Huss said. “With the funds we have, we can’t do it all.”
Although it has only been running for a month, rider response has been positive, said Jerry Jones, who drives all four 52U routes Monday through Thursday.
Jones added the route is still new and many people don’t know about it yet. “I’m sure as soon as more people hear about it, more people will ride it,” he said.
As for the future of the 52U, Cone said this route is just like any other. If its passenger feedback is positive and steady ridership continues, the route will endure.
Huss said spring quarter, when ridership generally drops, will be the true test.