By Henry Eckels
The question of whether to take the bus or drive yourself to campus might be the most insignificant and simultaneously the most crucial decision that a Baylor student makes.
The Baylor University Shuttle, or BUS, is a system of transportation operated by Waco Transit in coordination with the Baylor Department of Parking and Transportation services.
Matt Penney, Baylor’s director of parking and transportation services, said the BUS system only had one route when it was first established.
“It started about 15 years ago, out of a need to get students from one place to another,” Penney said. “When it originated the only route was around the housing on the south side of campus, and it evolved from there.”
Penney said as more routes were created and more buses were acquired over the next few years, the BUS system also became more efficient.
“For a while the routes suffered from a lack of focus and they were taking about 30 to 45 minutes to run their full course,” Penney said. “Then each route got a specific purpose.”
Penney said the BUS system has experienced marked increases in ridership over the course of just a few years.
The Baylor buses travel on three different routes between 7:25 a.m. and 5:25 p.m. on weekdays. The three routes consist of Baylor Red, Baylor Blue and the DASH. There is also a late-night bus that stops by the Moody Library from 6:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
“Our total ridership has increased by 20 percent in just the past year,” Penney said. “The Baylor Red route alone services well over 800 students per day.”
Baylor students who regularly commute to campus with the BUS system have expressed mixed feelings about the transportation service.
Danville, Calif., junior Brandon Hoff, who lives at the Outpost Apartments, said the Baylor Red bus is inconvenient to board in the mornings.
“I get to the bus stop more than a half hour before my class starts and I usually have to wait for Baylor Red to make multiple trips because they are too crowded,” Hoff said.
Hoff said he thinks there should be at least three buses on the Baylor Red route on weekday mornings rather than just two.
“I usually end up late to class because the first bus is completely full of students who live at University Parks and because of this, there are dozens of students stacking up at the Outpost bus stop who take up whatever space is left on the second bus,” Hoff said.
Penney said although the Baylor Red route deals with a larger volume of students than any of the other routes, the data shows that two buses are enough for the popular route.
“There is a rush hour between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on the Baylor Red route when most students go to class for the day,” Penney said. “However, based on our research, with two Baylor Red buses arriving at each stop an incredible 7.5 minutes apart, there is not a real need to supply a third bus just for the morning rush hour.”
New Ipswich, N.H., junior Zack Traffie, who is a community leader at University Parks apartments, said he is grateful for the service Baylor makes available to off campus students.
“For Baylor to provide a bus service that stops at off campus housing every 10 minutes every day is going above and beyond the call of duty,” Traffie said. “I don’t think we appreciate the service or the drivers nearly as much as we should.”
The Woodlands junior Drew Thomas, who lives at University Parks apartments, said the buses are sometimes inconsistent in their arrival times.
“Often you’ll see that both of the Baylor Red buses often show up within a couple of minutes of each other,” Thomas said. “This isn’t inconvenient all the time, but it creates a longer gap between when the bus is advertised to arrive and when it actually does.”
Cypress junior Aaron Gladstone, who lives at the Outpost apartments, views taking the Baylor Red bus as both a blessing and a curse.
“I love the bus because it helps me save money I would otherwise spend purchasing gas to drive myself to campus every day,” Gladstone said. “On the other hand, trying to get on the morning bus can be a hassle where I either miss it altogether or get on an extremely crowded bus.”
Penney said Baylor Parking and Transportation Services is constantly looking for ways to improve the bus commute experience, including releasing a new iPhone app that lets students track the buses’ locations on their routes in real time.
“One thing I’ve been trying to get is a bus shelter by the Speight Avenue bus stop,” Penney said. “Right now, students are exposed to whatever weather there may be while waiting for the bus.”