Students share frustrations with Sugar Land Shuttle
At UH, very few people are lucky enough to escape the commute. Even many of those that live on campus have come to the unfortunate realization that, despite sleeping and eating a stone’s throw away from President Renu Khator’s office, they too must make a pilgrimage through Houston traffic to the far-away realm of UH’s Sugar Land campus.
But with a shuttle service that is reportedly less than adequate, students have been feeling the strain of the 20 mile journey. Record-breaking heat, overcrowding and a host of other issues have contributed to what some say is an increased strain on their well-being.
“I cannot neglect the impact it has on my mental health,” said junior philosophy major Golnaz Shokrollahi “ I come home crying due to how stressful it is to get to class on time using the bus, especially when I’m trying to balance my demanding coursework and having a healthy schedule.”
Overcrowding at the bus stops, according to Shokrollahi, has caused long wait times along with hazardous conditions for students trying to secure a seat on the bus.
A lack of organization has also become an issue. With little in the way of established order, students often mob the doorways desperate to be one of the few to board, journalism senior Zahra Gokal said.
“There are a lot of people getting on the bus at once. They’re afraid of missing the bus, so they push to get through and people who get there last are the first to get on,” Gokal said. “Some people get hurt. Lines have been enforced at the Sugar Land campus, but not at main.”
Some students said they leave their homes nearly two hours in advance but even then a timely arrival is not guaranteed. Other students, like Shokrollahi, have completely abandoned the idea of taking classes early in the morning, she said.
Wait times can be as little as 15 minutes in the morning if all three buses are in rotation, but can be as long as 30-40 minutes, according to junior English major Imaan Faisal. However, in the evenings when only one bus is active, waits can be as long as an hour forcing students to wait in Houston’s heat.
“It’s another problem trying to get back home since the crowd is much less organized, so some people who have been waiting a long time might miss the bus several times,” Shokrollahi said. “This is a huge issue right now due to our weather conditions as it can lead to a heat stroke and will prove to be a struggle in the coming winter months.”
The volume at the Sugar Land Shuttle is growing each year, Gokal said. However, little increase has been made to the number of buses on the route, which has only added to their frustrations.
“The shuttle has been inconsistent at best and full-on dysfunctional at worst,” Faisal said. “It doesn’t adhere to a schedule like the Metro or other bus services, and the only way to know whether or not a bus is coming is through a tracker that regularly glitches, stops working, or provides inaccurate information as to the buses’ whereabouts.”
The growing demand has created something the University was not prepared for, Faisal said. UH Sugar Land has evolved into a transit hub, a place where a community of students goes to utilize public transportation. Students in the area rely on the shuttle to get to their classes.
“This is a rare demonstration of students’ needs turning a standard UH facility into something larger than itself, and I think Parking and Transportation should latch onto this development as an opportunity to push sustainable transport and meet the needs of students who can’t drive for whatever reason,” Faisal said.
For some students, parking fees are not manageable or they don’t have reliable transportation to get to and from campus each day, Shokrollahi said. She claims Sugar Land has no public transit like Metro and the UH COAST program has many restrictions for students.
Students don’t want the issue to grow and force the University to restrict access to public transportation. However, they hope UH does its part to fix the ongoing issue.
“It’s the first two weeks of school, so it’s expected that things will be chaotic. But the shuttle has had its issues in the past, and increasingly more people are using it,” Gokal said. Users had petitioned for a third bus on the line and we got it. The solution shouldn’t be removing access; rather, there should be more effort in providing better services to commuter students.”