As soon as the two buses arrive at Brady Commons, waves of students hitching a ride from parking lots on the fringe of the MU campus get off and rush to class.
“Today the situation is not so bad,” said James Whitaker, 21, a junior in political science. “The buses do get very crowded at times, and you have to wait for another 20 minutes to get on the next one. Some days, you have to be there at least 30 to 45 minutes before class.”
The shuttle situation
MU operates five shuttle buses from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, mostly at 20-minute intervals, from parking lots at Trowbridge Livestock Center and Hearnes Center.
To overcome the problem of crowded and slow buses in the busiest hours of the day, MU has decided to add two buses, beginning in the fall semester, to cover the four busiest hours of each school day .
Jim Joy, MU director of Parking and Transportation Services, projected the additional annual expense at $505,500.
“We will know the final cost of the two additional shuttles only later in the year, since it is based on the total of hours that will be added,” Joy said. “The buses for the shuttle service cost $35.75 per hour, and we are planning to add them for four hours every day, a total of eight hours a day between the two buses for 183 days a year.”
Matthew Ross Sokoloff, chairman of the Student Fee Review Committee, said the student transportation fee will increase from $10.51 to $11.74 for full-time students. At the request of the Missouri Student Association, the expense will be covered by reallocating money from student fees for capital improvements. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs said that means there will be no net fee increase for the extra buses.
“The only amount students will pay more next fiscal year is inflation, which is 23 cents, for transportation,” Sokoloff said.
Arieana Moore, a senior physics major who uses the shuttles, said that adding buses “will surely help to improve the situation. It’s a good idea.”
Moore agrees that the problem varies according to the time in the morning: “I remember last year I had very early classes, at 8 a.m., so when I was taking the bus around 7, the situation was always calm. This year, I have noticed that it definitely gets worse around 9 to 10,” she said.
The extra shuttles will operate beginning from 7 a.m. or a little later, Joy said. Specific times will be selected after talking with the drivers and the city of Columbia, which provides the buses and drivers.
The proposal was raised three years ago by a group of students from the Parking and Transportation Committee.
The city of Columbia has provided transportation services at MU since last semester. The service is cheaper and more efficient than if the university ran it, Joy said. According to the 2003-04 report from Columbia Transit to MU Parking and Transportation Services, the number of monthly campus-shuttle riders peaked at 124,721 in October. It counted 45,945 riders in January.
Joy said that as the semester progressed, the number of riders on campus decreased because students adjust their schedules and are less overwhelmed by the new system and less anxious about getting to class on time.
Since August, the shuttles have served 439,507 riders with a daily average of 3,355.