As more snow falls and temperatures continue to drop, University of Minnesota students are piling onto crammed campus buses in order to avoid walking in the cold and slushy snow, creating trouble for buses accommodating this increased demand.
Students have raised concerns about longer wait times and overcrowded buses on the University Campus Connectors and Circulators. The Minnesota Student Association and University’s Parking and Transportation Services are working together to address these issues.
MSA released a statement about the Feb.19 incident on the 4th Street Circulator, during which students were pushed to the ground while attempting to board an overcrowded bus at the stop near The Bridges apartment complex.
“In conversations with other students, we know this congestion is part of a larger issue that culminated in yesterday’s incident,” the statement read.
On Feb. 22, PTS released a statement outlining suggestions for students as well as steps the University is taking to improve campus transportation.
"PTS apologizes for the overcrowding that many members of our campus community have experienced. It is understandably frustrating as a passenger if transportation is needed during one of those trips. PTS strives to provide a frequency of service with a reasonable amount of wait time between buses," the statement read.
Third-year student Katelyn Belden was on the 4th Street Circulator when the incident outside of the Bridges occurred and reached out to MSA in hopes it could advocate for change. Belden said she's experienced aggression and overcrowding on the campus buses, which sometimes makes her late for work.
“I had to miss a bus once … because it was so crowded. I just couldn’t get on,” she said.
Lauren Meyers, MSA’s infrastructure committee director, said despite weather conditions, the 4th Street Circulator is frequently the source of many student concerns.
“Even before winter even happened, the 4th Street Circulator is easily the topic I hear the most about as far as students [bringing issues] up,” she said.
Jacqueline Bass, a spokesperson for PTS, said recent issues have been unique because of this winter's record-breaking snow and cold weather.
“It’s not something that happens every winter,” she said. “As the temperatures warm up, I think this issue will subside.”
PTS is aware of the issues and is using every bus possible, monitoring buses and adjusting routes when necessary, Bass said. PTS also has four new buses on order for next fall.
Meyers said she is hoping to involve students in the re-evaluation of bus routes on campus so they can best serve the students who use them regularly.
“We’re hoping to just really re-evaluate how students are using these routes. … It’s just time that they change because student housing has changed so, so much in the past few years,” Meyers said.
Bass said routes are re-evaluated on a frequent basis and are intended to serve students as best as possible. The 4th Street Circulator and University Avenue Circulator were introduced only a couple years ago, she said.
“There’s a lot of research and thought behind how the routes are. They are planned to assist students as much as possible,” she said.
University junior Jorguino Savio said some of the overcrowding issues are simply due to students' unwillingness to make room for others. “Some students, they don’t want to move [and] give the space to another student … they don’t care about the other person,” he said.
Meyers said when she mentioned the MSA statement to peers, many students agreed that overcrowded buses can get physical, adding that aggression is sometimes necessary to board the bus.
Bass recommended students look into other route options and recognize that other buses can take them to the same place in a more timely manner with potentially less crowding.
“If [the 4th Street Circulator] is full and they are unable to get on that bus, the University Avenue Circulator is the exact same route, it’s just backwards,” Bass said. “We encourage students to think creatively … there is more than one choice.”
MSA and PTS are scheduled to meet this week to discuss these recent issues.