Cougar Line cuts back with students in mind

With a switch in shuttle service providers and a route revamp, UH will save $1 million, which will fund repair streets and parking lots and reduce future permit rates.

Parking and Transportation Services will now run a three-route Cougar Line consisting of the Campus Loop, the Eastwood/Energy Research Park route and a new Outer Loop. Director of Parking and Transportation Services Robert Browand said this change will save students and faculty money.

“Operating costs for the shuttle have increased dramatically. The burden of the increased cost has been placed on faculty, staff and students in the form of higher parking rates,” Browand said.

In 2012, it cost $2.4 million to maintain and operate the five-route Cougar Line, according to a Dec. 17 press release. All routes were funded by the sale of parking permits. The growing operation cost, doubling since 2004, has caused a diversion of money away from parking lot maintenance and other parking projects, according to the press release.

Seeing the need for a change, the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committees came up with a solution to reduce the overall cost of shuttle services. Its proposal was presented in the fall semester to administration, the Student Government Association, Faculty Senate and Staff Council and received no negative response, Browand said.

TPAC’s plan changed the Cougar Line’s number of routes from five to three, reducing the annual cost to about $1.5 million.

Two of the remaining routes, the Campus Loop and the Eastwood/Energy Research Park route, will not be altered until the Loop Road Project is completed and a stop at the Cougar Woods dinning hall is added to the Campus Loop.

The new outer loop will consist of the former Oaks Satellite Line and the Bayou Oaks Line. Five buses will drive this new combination route. Parking and Transportation Services is anticipating approximately the same wait time between buses, Browand said.

With a longer route, students should anticipate the bus taking a few extra minutes to complete the loop. Some students feel this wait will just bring new frustration.

“I’m not very happy about the route changes. I feel like the buses already ran pretty poorly last semester with the two routes. Now, with just one route, it is going to take forever for a bus to come,” said junior marketing major Colleen Engel.

“For me, the convenience means more to me than the price. I’d rather make it to class on time and spend a little extra on a parking permit next semester than be late to class.”

Although only one route will see major changes, all routes will have a new service provider.

UH Parking and Transportation is working with Groome Transportation to create new campus bus routes and supply more buses.

UH Parking and Transportation Services is working with Groome Transportation to create new campus bus routes and supply more buses.

Groome Transportation, a Virginia-based company, signed a five-year contract with UH. The company was chosen because of its history of reliable service and safe drivers, according to the Dec. 17 press release.

“Hopefully with a new service provider, service will change, and the buses will arrive at a good time,” Engel said. “But I don’t know. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

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1 Comment

  • Glad to hear. The new buses are also much better. More comfortable seats, better air control, etc. Plus I guess it’s good that 5 routes are more simplified to 3 routes now, an means less looking around for other buses. At least one department on campus knows how to cut back and still maintain service quality.

    Although I don’t use the shuttles much, maybe a small fee, like $0.25 a ride could help sustain the program. It’s not like shuttles are super necessary (unless we are talking about going to the ERP, which I could see an exception) so charging a small fee wouldn’t be that bad. It can be collected through Cougar Card swipes (the same account that does printing paper) and a fare box.

    Just an idea…

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