By Clay Parham | Guest Columnist
Baylor’s bus system fails to meet its most basic purpose. Full stop. Instead of servicing Baylor students who live east of LaSalle Avenue, near 15th Street, or west of I-35, the Baylor Shuttle System (BUS) has three lines running effectively the same route, leaving only one route servicing the rest of the Baylor neighborhood. While the BUS is free, its exclusivity to those that live in wealthier apartments across University Parks Drive or on Speight keep it from reaching its full potential – an efficient, environmentally friendly tool to decrease traffic and fix our parking crisis.
I know that Baylor students would use our BUS system if it were planned for everyone. Every morning I have tried to use the Blue line, it has been too full to even stand. However, only one bus comes every 15 minutes. Instead, the four apartment complexes across University Parks Drive have three buses – the Red, Green, and Silver lines – while both U Pointe and The View, despite being only a few blocks from campus, have the Blue line. A parking permit, luck with an off-campus spot, or two legs are the only way for students that are not wealthy enough to afford the $800 rent from Oso Verde or U Pointe to get to campus. The lack of a reliable bus system deters students from utilizing this resource, leading to crowded parking lots and unbearable traffic near campus.
Public transportation has been historically vilified in the United States. Americans often view buses as for lower-income folks. This leads to declining ridership, and Baylor students, predominantly middle and upper class, are no different. Bad bus conditions, unreliability and poor scheduling have made the buses on campus rarely used, and Baylor, seeing a decline in ridership from their poor planning, then moved the routes to service specific apartments, further alienating the students who live off campus.
Students that are forced to drive to campus because of poor BUS routes are contributing, through no fault of their own, to the parking shortage we are all familiar with. Having a bus service that most Baylor students can ride will help alleviate the parking struggle and lower traffic congestion.
This is a possibility within our current BUS budget, too. Since we have three buses running effectively the same route, moving a bus or two to new routes, servicing east of LaSalle Avenue and south of 12th Street, will satisfy a majority of Baylor students. Additionally, including the Ferrell Center stop with the University Parks apartments, and keeping two buses on that line, will decrease wait time and increase reliability on that line without extra funding.
The changes above are simple steps Baylor could make to increase the ridership and effectiveness of the BUS system. However, Baylor must make a decision. Are good bus routes important for keeping students happy, or is increasing available parking a feasible solution? A radical change will be difficult at first, and Baylor students must be willing to accept public transportation as a quick and effective way to get to class, but with time and devotion from all parties, we can make the BUS a fantastic asset to our campus.
Clay is a senior international studies major from Buda.