New shuttles hit streets
Nine of the 14 new shuttle buses made their debut on campus this spring as part of a renegotiation for shuttles last August with AFC Corporate Transportation, Robert Browand, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said.
The remaining five shuttle buses are expected this week.
Browand said that the most significant change in the buses is improved access for passengers with disabilities.
"The new buses’ wheelchair lifts have a manual override in case of a malfunctioning lift," Browand said.
He also said the two biggest complaints about the buses in the past were arrival and departure times as well as the overcrowding of the buses during peak traffic hours in the afternoons. The new buses were designed to transport more students at once, he said.
"The old fleet had two different size buses, all the new buses are comparable to the bigger bus of the old fleet, therefore the overall capacity of the fleet is greater," Browand said.
The new buses are also equipped with global positioning system tracking and video monitors, Browand said.
Some students said they like the change.
"There is a lot more room inside the bus, they seem lighter and cleaner," political science and psychology senior Eliza Sanchez said.
Communication sophomore Carolina Fassi said she likes the new look of the shuttles.
"I think they are pretty efficient, they are timely and they look good now," Fassi said after getting off the Purple bus route at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.
The shuttle service is funded by students, faculty and staff who purchase parking permits, Browand said.
"The estimated annual cost of this new service is $1.5 million," Browand said. "In addition, about 25 percent of students’ permit fees go toward the shuttle."
Browand said that students using the shuttles are not directly charged.
"We had anticipated a rate increase with the new contract last year when we did the permit increase for the new service," he said.
Browand said that the drivers are keeping track of how many students ride the shuttles to find out student usage rates.
"The bus drivers are taking a head count during each bus route until they get a(n) (electronic) system in which they can enter the information and we can download it into a (database)," Browand said.
Since 2006, the number of students taking the buses has averaged about 9,000 daily.
Browand said he has not received any complaints so far.
"Students will benefit from the increased capacity and hopefully they will have a positive response to the new service," Browand said.
For more information, students can visit www.uh.edu/parking.