BART shuttle cuts stops in effort to speed service
October 3, 2007 6:35 PM
It’s back to the basics. After years of adding buses to the route that shuttles students from Daly City BART to the SF State campus in a vain attempt to speed up service, the school’s transportation officials have reduced the number of stops to the way it was when it began in the late 80’s.
According to the SF State Department of Parking & Transportation, a division of Public Safety, the new route is the most “efficient and cost-effective” one possible. And to the relief of stranded riders, Police Chief Kirk Gaston also promised it would be the most “consistent and fastest way” to get to and from the university.
The shuttle will now skip the Library, Humanities Building, Residence Halls, North State Drive and Lot 25 serving only University Park North, 19th Avenue and the Daly City BART station. Shuttle organizers anticipated longer lines at each stop, but said the increase of people will be offset by the faster service.
Ironically, one of the worst delays in recent times was due to shuttle drivers being called to attend an informational meeting about the new, faster route. On Sept. 21, students reported waiting as much as one hour for shuttle service at Daly City BART, causing some of them to miss portions of class.
“The shuttle service is a courtesy service. There was no need to notify; it was only a 15-minute interruption,” Patricia Tolar, a parking specialist with the Department of Public Safety, told [X]press after the incident.
Though officials have often referred to the shuttle as a “free service” that is a “courtesy” to students, all of its costs—including driver salaries, gas and maintenance repairs—are funded by parking citation fees and parking permit sales, according to Gaston.
Public pressure for reliability has been growing for years. Ellen Yamamoto, a 65-year-old classics major grew increasingly frustrated with waiting in unsheltered lines for “sometimes up to an hour.”
“If they are not on schedule, you either get very wet or very dry,” Yamamoto said. “Mornings it’s not so bad, but in the afternoon, it’s really bad. It gets ridiculous.”
The department ran studies in 2006 that showed the average waiting time was 23 minutes and at times up to 35-40 minutes during peak hours, Gaston said. A sixth shuttle was added to the route but with no result, according to the e-mail.
Issues with the shuttle have grown steadily since it began with a jolt in October of 1989. The Loma Prieta Earthquake had shaken the Bay Area and forced the closure of the Bay Bridge for one month. One shuttle began service to the Daly City BART station to alleviate crowded MUNI buses and encourage the use of public transportation.
By 1997, the route had grown to 3 or 4 shuttles that did loops from the BART station to the 19th Ave stop, providing a consistent 10 to 15 minute wait, officials said. But back then, the student population numbered 26,982. It has since grown by nearly 3,000 students. On-campus housing for freshmen has also increased by 500 beds in the last three years, adding to an already congested area.
More changes came in 1998 when the route was expanded to include the current eight stops and another shuttle was added to the fleet. There are now 4 to 6 shuttles on the road, each running up to 15 hours a day, five days a week.
“In theory it should be faster, but you never know,” said Amy Sier, 19, a liberal arts major who said the shuttles seemed to never go to the Mary Park Hall stop, near where she lived last year. If a shuttle, which can hold up to 25 people at a time, fills up at its stops by the Library and Humanities Building, it will often drive directly to the BART station and skip the loop around campus.
“The shuttle program’s number one priority is to enhance the MUNI service to the campus community in the most consistent and fastest way possible,” Gaston said in his statement.
City-wide MUNI has taken similar action. On-time performance has hovered around 70 percent during the past few years. As a result, the city created the Transit Effectiveness Project. The committee worked on emphasizing service on popular bus lines, creating transit-only lanes and adding more “Limited” buses that make fewer stops--all in an effort to reduce wait times.
Maggie Lynch, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency that runs MUNI, refused to comment.
Although many students complained of unreliability, most waiting for shuttles agreed that drivers are courteous and safe and that it’s a good alternative to having to pay bus fare on MUNI.
Art student Derek Ott, 31, said he appreciated not having to haul his cumbersome school supplies by foot. Though he said he will miss the Library stop, which was close to the building he attends classes in, and he’d like to see more railings on the buses.
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