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CSULB shuttle system sees student scrutiny

Varying wait times drive confusion and frustration with campus shuttles.

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CSULB shuttle system sees student scrutiny

A CSULB shuttle picks up students outside Brotman Hall on Mar. 24, 2017.

A CSULB shuttle picks up students outside Brotman Hall on Mar. 24, 2017.

Bobby Yagake

A CSULB shuttle picks up students outside Brotman Hall on Mar. 24, 2017.

Bobby Yagake

Bobby Yagake

A CSULB shuttle picks up students outside Brotman Hall on Mar. 24, 2017.

Alex Race and Mac Walby, Contributing Writers

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Kevin Alvarado paces back and forth in front of the Beachside dorms waiting for a Cal State Long Beach campus shuttle. He gives his phone a series of frantic glances, eyeballing the time and praying that he won’t be late for his classes.

Alvarado isn’t the only student worried about the prospects of missing a shuttle – take a few shuttle rides and you’ll often hear the complaints of students regarding the shuttle services offered on campus.

“When I got on the shuttles, they were always packed and I almost always ended up being 20 minutes late,” said Tory Corona, a senior graphic design student.

If a student misses an initial shuttle due to it being full, the varying and sometimes lengthy wait times leave students weighing their options. In some cases, this means booking it cross-campus in order to make it to class on time — in others, it means waiting for the next shuttle despite an unpredictable schedule.

“I knew the next shuttle was going to be 15 minutes, so I was already going to be late. It took just as long to wait for it as it took to walk to class – so I just walked to class,” Corona said.

The perceived problems with the shuttle services aren’t due to a lack of effort. The Parking Transportation and Services department spends a lot of money trying just about everything to alleviate the flood of commuters CSULB caters to on a daily basis.

“We continually monitor shuttle wait times and accommodation levels to assess the shuttle transportation demand,” Amy Gerety, interim director of parking and transportation services, said in an email. “We use this information to make adjustments when applicable.”

Parking and Transportation spends $1.2 million annually on the shuttle services on campus — this includes both maintenance and operation. The department is operating at a loss of almost $7.5 million this year, having to offset this gap with reserve funds.

In an informal survey of one hundred individual students taken between what students call the “busy hours” of 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. at the last stop of the East Loop shuttle station, 87 said that they have missed a shuttle due to it being full. 62 said that during the course of a semester, they miss a shuttle at least two to three times due to it being full — seven saying they have missed a shuttle five-plus times.

The East Loop wait times can vary between 5 and 14 minutes, depending on the window in which a student arrives. As many as three shuttles operate at a time on the East Loop — usually during the busy hours. When the route is on a two-shuttle rotation, the shuttles tend to leave back-to-back, resulting in a long wait time if a student misses that window.   

“The last time I used the shuttle service I had to wait for three shuttles before getting one,” said student and regular shuttle rider Brian Vu.

If a student misses a shuttle from the last stop on the East Loop and they need to head to the library on the upper portion of campus, they face a quarter mile walk that takes 15 minutes at a walking pace of 3 miles per hour. 52 students said they were late to class as a result of missing a shuttle due to it being full in the same survey.  

“If this is the option that we’re being given and I’m paying over $100 to park here then I think I should be catered to to make sure that I get to my classes on time,” said Jillian Sutton, who commutes from Los Angeles. “I shouldn’t have to get here an hour early to make sure that I get to my class. Really early in the morning, between eight and nine the shuttles are packed and I’m either standing or getting smacked in the face with a book bag, and that’s super uncomfortable.”  

Sutton says that with her commute, time spent getting to campus, classes and back home, her travel time can exceed two hours a day. She says the whole process would be made easier if parking was made more available on the upper part of campus — other students would agree.

“Lot 7 [the staff lot on upper campus] needs to be turned into a parking garage,” said student and regular shuttle rider Charles Denton. “I have to re-park my car every in lot 7 at 5:30 p.m. [when students are allowed to park there] because I have a class on upper campus.”

Gerety says that Parking and Transportation are aware of the frustrations students have regarding the wait times, acknowledging that some of the shuttles have a 15 minute gap between trips.

“We encourage students to plan accordingly to arrive to classes on time,” Gerety said.

Parking and Transportation spends over $2 million per year on sustainability programs such as the shuttles, the Long Beach Transit tap card and U-Pass. The school will also be paying back loans for parking structures on campus — $3 million every year until after 2030, according to the Parking and Transportation Services annual report.

As it currently sits, the funding isn’t necessarily there to address all of the needs for convenient and sustainable transportation. Students may have to be patient and wait until the funding to arrive so more shuttles can be added to the rotation.

1 Comment

One Response to “CSULB shuttle system sees student scrutiny”

  1. Anonymous on September 18th, 2017 6:04 am

    A quarter mile walk to the library at 3mi/hr takes 5 minutes, not 15 minutes

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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