EDITORIAL: Bus system in need of serious reform
Vital student service comes up short on all levels
This Monday there were two bus fires, delaying tens of — if not upward of — hundreds of students from reaching their destinations on time (as well as the obvious safety issue presented).
Bus travel is as intrinsic a part of a Rutgers education as the school itself. The school is divided into five separate campuses, concentrated in four different regions of the greater New Brunswick area.
As a result, massive amounts of students — approximately 184,900 — use the buses daily to attend classes, clubs and other gatherings on distant campuses.
Considering the yearly usage numbers teeter near the 6 million mark, any slight dysfunction in pace, timing and productivity of these buses could throw the entire University into subtle chaos. This Monday, students got a taste of such dysfunction in a fiery way.
Not all of the bus system's problems manifest themselves in such extravagant ways. Complaints about the buses are nothing new.
Traffic has been an issue for years, especially on the College Avenue campus. Buses often wait for cars, pedestrians and bikes to exert their right of way before turning, which can take upward of a few minutes and further delay traffic — and students.
Compounding the traffic issue are the breaks that drivers often take. It is certainly understandable that drivers need breaks from their shifts, which are often long, and with the time-sensitive schedule they face, stressful. With that established, the way the breaks are handled is sloppy at best.
Drivers consistently take their breaks at two major stops: the College Avenue Student Center and the Busch Student Center. The fact that drivers typically take their breaks at these stops — a fault of the bus administrators — causes the same routes to be delayed every time, instead of diversifying the rest stops to smooth out traffic.
Delayed arrivals are not the sole issue that untimely breaks cause. Many drivers leave their respective buses to smoke, eat or walk around when their break arrives. This is understandable, but what results is an empty bus full of students clueless as to when they may leave.
A proposed solution, perhaps, would be for drivers to stand outside or near their bus, and somehow indicate to passersby when they will depart.
Students also feel marginalized by the bus system. Major routes, such as to the College Avenue campus or Cook campus, entail a large amount of buses. This is a sensible policy. Those routes receive incredible amounts of traffic each day, due to the high population of students and classes on their respective campuses.
More buses should be assigned to obscure routes, such as the Livingston campus to Cook campus route, to aid the students who use them more frequently.
Bus-driving is obviously not the most rewarding or appreciated job in the world, but students sometimes find themselves or their belongings clamped inside a bus door. While said students should be more vigilant of their surroundings, a cursory glance from the bus driver would take little effort and prevent potentially substantial injury.
Sanitation also presents itself as an issue on the buses, particularly after this year's meningitis B outbreak. Students are often crammed together on the buses. This itself can exacerbate the spread of contagious diseases and viruses, especially as we approach flu season. Standing students also have to hold onto metal bars and plastic handles to keep themselves from falling — not always successfully — as the Busch campus buses traverse their classic turn off of Route 18, or the Livingston campus buses as they merge onto Route 18.
After this mandatory clasping happens, the bus fills up with entirely different sets of people. No known cleaning happens between any stops.
While it would not mitigate the issue completely, hand-sanitizing stations set up at both doors of the bus would go a long way in keeping illnesses at bay. It would be convenient for students to disinfect their hands prior to entering and exiting the bus, stifling the spread of germs.
Other bus systems do not have these issues, showing it is not universal among campuses with large student bodies. Pennsylvania State University, also being a large university, has a shuttle system. For convenience purposes, the schedule is definitive and online. Rutgers has no similar schedule on its website. The Pennsylvania State University shuttle service comes around every 15 minutes. Some Rutgers buses can take upward of 45 minutes to arrive.
While some of these issues may take intensive work and planning to solve, others, such as the sanitation issue, are easy and cheap to implement. Students can complain to their peers at will, but until genuine action is taken and pressure is placed on the University to fix these issues, nothing will change, and the buses will remain an insufferable experience.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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