Rutgers transportation directors outline plans to streamline bus system
Rutgers buses act as the primary form of transportation for many students, who collectively take an estimated 70,000 bus trips every day, according to a previous Daily Targum article.
But operating a large-scale bus system can often create inconsistencies — including the times and locations when bus drivers choose to take breaks.
Students noted that breaks, taken at inopportune times, can lead them to arrive late to classes. John Karakoglou, assistant director of the Rutgers University Department of Transportation Services (DOTS) said the protocol and scheduling of breaks are not rigid.
“The breaks depend on the drivers — some drivers take their breaks in the morning and wait until lunchtime for the next one, but it all depends.”
With the large lectures, Rutgers buses can often be inundated with students flooding to the nearest bus stop to travel to their next destination, Karakoglou said. Timing during class breaks is approached differently to accommodate the drastic change of riders.
At these times, traffic sometimes leaves students waiting for multiple cycles to catch a bus, Karakoglou said.
The commute from a large class is comparable to exiting a large sporting event, said Jack Molenaar, director of the Rutgers DOTS. Rutgers usually sends more buses to accommodate students during peak times, but he said no matter how many buses are sent, students will still be leftover.
A bus driver’s break schedule typically lines up with each campus’s Standard Course Period (SCP), Karakoglou said.
“They will not take breaks during class breaks,” Karakoglou said. “Once class breaks end, you see the drivers sit for a couple of minutes."
It can be an inconvenience especially for commuters, but there are always other buses running, Molenaar said, and that the transit system may not be at fault for the inconveniences.
“If you keep building big lecture halls and keep scheduling classes at the same time, even if we had dedicated bus lanes or a light rail system with no traffic, you’re still waiting for something,” Molenaar said.
Sometimes bus drivers wait in their seat or outside while the bus is filled with students, while other times, buses are parked at student centers earlier than they are scheduled to, Karakoglou said.
Students can always ask the driver how much longer they will be, or another bus should only be a couple minutes away, he said.The school is also working to improve and streamline its bus system.
“Each stop is friction and time, and we’re constantly trying to find ways to remove stops," Molenaar said. “If you remove stops it makes everything more efficient, more predictable."
Alternative forms of transportation are also being explored for the future, Molenaar said.
He said his vision is to keep finding different types of transportation and tweaking how many times people use the bus each day. The school is currently working to do this is by expanding its bike share program on campus, as outlined in a Daily Targum article.
In addition, Rutgers has revealed plans to redesign bike and bus lanes on the College Avenue campus.
For commuters and residents looking for faster ways around campus, transportation provided by the University is pitched as the most viable option, Karakoglou said.
“We run so much more frequently than NJ Transit, so if you miss a bus it’s no big deal there will be another one there soon,” said Karakoglou.
Sharbel Skaff is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in exercise science. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.