Campus News

Sugar Land Shuttle runs empty, despite demands from commuters

Len Duenas/The Cougar

After months, commuter struggles with the Sugar Land Shuttle continue. 

About a month ago, Parking and Transportation Services released additional passes for the Sugar Land shuttle for priority students  — regardless of their spot on the waitlist. Even though almost everyone who fell into the priority category received the passes, commuters usually found the shuttles lifeless during their commute. 

“The shuttles are mostly empty and there are barely any people on the bus,” said mechanical engineering technology junior Pratyush Mehta. “It was most crowded at 5 p.m. when there were about 15 people including me, otherwise there are only like five students.” 

Parking and Transportation Services are aware of the shuttles running with empty seats. However, the current average oversell — a figure that accounts for the number of passes sold over the potential maximum that could be seated — across all UH parking areas on campus is 1.35 permit holders per seat, according to interim Director of Media Relations Bryan Luhn.

“Just like Zone and Garage Parking, empty seats don’t mean available seats,” Luhn said. “If we were to increase the oversell beyond this ratio, we are concerned that the service would no longer be a reliable transportation plan for the intended population of students.” 

Students from the Fort Bend County area are struggling with accommodations as well from the University since they are experiencing a limited number of permits. 

Due to the limited number of permits being sold out, UH will not be able to accommodate more students, such as those living in the Fort Bend County area. 

Parking and Transportation Services, as an auxiliary service, operates financially independent of the University.  This means services like the shuttle buses can only be funded through revenue generated from enforcement and permit sales, not from government-appropriated funds.

Many commuters are unhappy with how the shuttle is funded and think UH should find a better solution to fund them rather than take more money from students who are already paying for parking permits. 

“I think it is unfair how the current way the shuttle is funded,” said English and media production senior Gwyneth De Pass. “If someone is paying for a parking permit, they are funding the shuttle with their money, and I think they should be able to use the shuttle if they wish to.”

Despite it being less crowded, students like De Pass and Mehta feel the shuttle system still has a few problems like the shuttle arrival and wait time. There is no set time for how long a shuttle waits at the stops and leaves. Sometimes it’s 30 minutes while other times it’s only a few. 

“The inaccuracy of wait time is very frustrating because the least they could do is give students a minimum amount of time to expect the bus to wait at the stop,” De Pass said. “Since you have to walk to the bus stop, it’s impossible to know if you’ll make it to the bus in time or not.”

Commuters feel it’s unfair that a lot of students who do not fall under the priority category are unable to ride the shuttle, despite the empty seats. 

Some commuters said that the previous system for filling up the shuttles was much better. Before the implementation of paid shuttle permits, students who had classes at both campuses were given priority to board the shuttle and later the remaining seats were filled up by other students.

“The bus can seat 30-35 people easily but is running with just 4-5 people,” Mehta said. “I understand their concern about this not being economical but they should scrap the waitlist and fill people who have classes at both campuses first.” 

The Parking and Transportation Services will not be providing permits for non-priority students but suggests services like parking permits, parking permits through carpool and Coogs on alternative and sustainable transportation for qualifying students as an alternative to the shuttles. 

“Going forward, we will be offering very limited, if any, permits to commuters from Sugar Land and those may only be made available one week after the official reporting day every semester so that all students in the intended group are accommodated,” Luhn said.  

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