Engineering junior Jarrett Childers made sure to arrive at the Central Campus Transit Center 45 minutes before his 9 a.m. class on North Campus on Monday, thinking he would have plenty of time to get to class on time. However, when he got there, he faced a line of students stretching all the way to the School of Dentistry that stood stagnant for minutes.
After walking to another bus stop with a line just as long, Childers decided to strap on his 30-pound backpack and make his way to North Campus on foot.
“I was definitely frustrated as I felt that was my only option,” Childers said. “I just don’t like to be late, and the people that were even ahead of me in line ended up being late as is. So, in hindsight, that was my only option to be on time.”
Though sweaty and out of breath, he arrived on time. Soon after, he noticed that people he recognized from the CCTC were about five to ten minutes late for class.
When asked about the possibility of adding more Blue Buses or changing the current bus routes, University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen said the University is facing a worker shortage, making hiring enough bus drivers difficult.
“One area where we have been hit the hardest is in the recruitment of temporary and student drivers,” Broekhuizen wrote in an email to The Daily. “We’ve increased driver pay and have redoubled our recruitment efforts. With campus returning to in-person classes this fall, Transit Services is working to adjust routes to meet the demand while dealing with a serious labor shortage.”
LSA and SMTD senior Stuart Coles said the University needs to take action to fix the situation.
“We’re wearing masks, but my face is in someone’s armpit, so you can’t distance that way,” Coles said. “And that is what makes it kind of darkly funny to me, is that we all knew this was going to happen. It happened anyway, and the University doesn’t seem to really care. So that’s annoying. I feel like we paid too much for this.”
Last fall, the University of Michigan launched a “hub-and-spoke” style transit system to reduce ride time for students traveling between North and Central Campus. The plan, created in collaboration with the College of Engineering and U-M health officials, included a masking requirement and specified keeping windows open to maintain airflow.
Under the hub-and-spoke model, the Campus Connector buses connect two frequently visited “hub” locations: Pierpont Commons on North Campus and the CCTC on Central Campus. The Bursley-Baits Loop and Stadium-Diag Loop are considered “spoke” routes, which are shorter rides that branch from hub locations and remain on either North or Central Campus.
Before the pandemic, half a dozen different routes went between the two campuses, including the popular “Bursley Baits” circuit that connected the North Campus residence halls directly to Central Campus.
In July, the University announced that the same bus routes would continue into the fall 2021 semester, raising concern from students on social media who rely on frequent busing to travel between classes. Three days into the semester, those concerns were realized as students say long lines and crowded buses have made it difficult — if not impossible — to commute.
Engineering sophomores Ben Kim and Ayurv Srivasyavhe commute daily to North Campus. Both, while waiting in line, told The Michigan Daily they are frustrated with the delayed wait times, especially in the afternoon.
“Yesterday it wasn’t too bad because we went early in the morning,” Kim said. “I think we only waited for like 10-15 minutes. And now, we’re probably like 30 minutes away from getting onto the bus, which is really frustrating … because of this, I have to go an hour before everything.”
Art and Design junior Neuroma Kariuki said the new bus routes, overcrowding and longer wait times are proving to be “very inconvenient,” especially due to the Art School’s “strict” late policy. She wishes the old bus systems were back in place so these issues could be resolved, because of concerns over both COVID and timing.
“I feel like it wasn’t a smart decision COVID-wise, reducing (transport between North Campus and Central Campus) to only one bus route, because now there’s less options for people, and this is kind-of what happens as a result.”
Despite the plan’s intent of increased COVID protections by reducing time spent on the bus , the routes are causing overcrowding, leading to concern over transmission of the virus. Kim said he is “definitely not” comfortable in terms of COVID while riding the bus.
“This seems counterintuitive to cut off the Bursley and Baits buses coming to Central just because we have to pack all these people in,” Kim said. “I’m usually shoulder to shoulder with someone else too. So it’s been really nerve wracking to try to stay safe the whole time.”
CSG passed a resolution Tuesday evening to increase the number of Campus Connector routes this semester.
UM Transit Services, an unofficial Twitter account run by U-M bus drivers, posted Wednesday afternoon that they had received a message that other route options are currently under consideration.
“We agree that our current service level is disappointing, but hopefully there will be some good news later this week,” UM Transit Services wrote.
This article has been updated to state that Stuart Coles is an LSA senior. A previous version incorrectly stated he was in the School of Engineering.
Daily Staff Reporter Martha Lewand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.