Students frustrated by overcrowded shuttles

 
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The NAU transportation system shuttles an average of 5,000 students around campus daily. Whether it is the occasional extremely long waits for buses or vans, or the rather uncomfortable ride with students crammed backpack-to-backpack, traveling on the NAU buses has led to complaints by many students.

“It’s a hassle, if you have an oddly timed class you’ll more than likely be waiting for forever for a bus to come,” said Sierra Roath, a sophomore special education major. “The only reason I take the bus is because I can’t park on campus. I wouldn’t take the bus if I could drive instead.”

Students load onto the bus at one of the more crowded stops on campus. Emily Carpenter / The Lumberjack

Jessica Flagler, a freshman English major said she is constantly frustrated waiting for a bus or shuttle.

“[The buses] are convenient but not efficient,” Flager said. “Some times I feel like I’ve been waiting on it for hours, especially in the mornings. It seems like there will be a lot of buses coming at one time and none at others. Sometimes there are just extremely long periods of time in between each bus.”

Erin Stam, manager of Parking & Shuttle Services, said the major cause of the inconveniences students experience is not having adequate vehicles to consistently provide transportation to students.

“Many, if not most, of our vehicles are beyond their life expectancy,” Stam said. “The biggest issue we have is mechanical breakdowns. They’re older vehicles, so the cold causes some problems in terms of startups.”

Stam also said the increase in the student population has created traffic congestion that is preventing buses from running at full efficiency.
“Traffic on campus causes a lot of problems,” Stam said. “If the shuttles can’t get through, it’s going to cause delays.”

Stam also clarified the confusion about the possibility of the vans being replaced by more buses. She said they eventually plan to get rid of the vans completely, but not any time soon.

However, students will notice a change in the transportation system after spring break. NAU has bought four new vehicles that are smaller than the standard buses but can hold close to the same capacity of people. The purpose of these vehicles is to improve the efficiency of the transportation system by replacing some leased vans and inefficient buses while adding to the current fleet of vehicles.

Josiah Sanchez, a sophomore choral education major and NAU van driver, said replacing vans with buses would help solve the space shortage.

“They’re moving toward shuttles because they hold more people,” Sanchez said.

The new vehicles, which can seat 25 people versus 11 in a van, are expected to improve upon transportation issues such as mechanical breakdowns, long waiting times and overcrowded buses.

Stam said she is in the process of developing a future plan of a one-route system that cuts through the center of campus. The route is expected to run more frequently and replace both routes one and two.

Stam said she understands the frustrations of the bus riders, and Parking & Shuttle Services is taking steps toward diminishing these inconveniences.

“The system is definitely not perfect, but we are working to provide an efficient and reliable transportation service,” Stam said. “Increasing and updating our fleet is definitely priority.”

Parking & Shuttle Services is planning to place new signs at bus stations around campus to help better educate NAU students about campus transportation.

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