Shuttle on time but schedule spurs students to seek alternative rides
By: Ashley Zimmerman, Eric Stafford, Evan White, Mattison Norris, Wyatt Randolph
Angel Ruiz is a sophomore at Quincy University from Glendale, Arizona. Being so far from home Ruiz does not have a car on campus. He had to find a way to get to North Campus for classes. One of the options Ruiz had was to walk to North Campus. Which according to Google maps would be roughly a 22-minute walk compared to a 3-minute drive.
“I only rode the shuttle one time, and it was good I guess,” Ruiz said. “But I didn’t know where North Campus was, and I didn’t know how long the ride was going to be. But it’s like a two-minute drive. I didn’t ride it after that because it was late and I’m not relying on them anymore.”
After the experience Ruiz had with the shuttle bus he went back home and brought his Plug electric scooter to campus. Now Ruiz uses his scooter as his main source of transportation to get around.
“I use it to get around everywhere,” Ruiz said. “I don’t have a car here, so I use to go to the store, or to class, or even to practice.”
Quincy University is a two campus university separated by ten blocks. Main Campus and North Campus are far enough away from each other that many students need reliable transportation in order to make it to class on time. The distance in the summer may not seem far for someone who rides a bike or walks to classes at North Campus, however when temperatures start to drop students find the distance feels much farther.
Transportation between campuses includes cars, bikes, walking, scooters, carpooling or catching rides with friends. QU offers a shuttle service for students who don’t have any other means of transportation. There are two buses that transport students: shuttle 1 and shuttle 2.
The shuttle system takes students to and from North Campus. The shuttle is on a timed rotation with departure times running every 15 minutes at each of three stops. The shuttles run on a looped route, staying at opposite ends of each other on the route. Shuttles transport approximately 40-50 students a day.
There are three different schedules available to students. One in the QU student planner, one posted at shuttle stops, and one provided from the city of Quincy. The schedule from the city is the one the drivers use.
Some students must rely heavily on the shuttle as it is their only form of transportation.
“It is really convenient for me because I am an international student so I don’t have a car. I have classes at North Campus everyday. It never seems like I have to wait long, sometimes class gets out right on time and that’s the same time the bus leaves so we have to wait till the next one comes but it’s never really long,” Emma Wijnbergen said.
For other students the shuttle system isn’t as crucial.
“I think it is pretty reliable, but it has its moments. I think the shuttle schedule needs to be posted more around campus or send it to students via email. I never got the schedule this year. I’m just lucky and still have last year’s schedule. I haven’t ridden the shuttle much this year because I have other options that fit my situation better but last year I rarely had issues. There was one instance where I was 20 minutes late to class because I was waiting 30 minutes for a bus. Apparently the bus had an accident but no one that was waiting knew any of that. I wish we could have gotten notified or something,” Faith Krabbe said.
Shuttle schedule accuracy investigation
QUMedia reporters spent one week observing the shuttle departure times at North Campus.
The reporters collected data including departure times and the number of students who got on and off each shuttle from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day from November 15-19.
The shuttle stops at the east door of A Building at the apex of the half-circle drive. Reporters observed how close the departure times matched the schedule printed in the 2021-2022 student planner. The shuttle was on time more often than it was not on time, with just 28% of the observed shuttles leaving within a minute or two of the planner schedule.
A QUMedia reporter was approached by multiple students asking if the shuttles were running on time the day she sat near the North Campus Dining cafe observing the departure times. At one point both shuttles were at North Campus at the same time.
Most students interviewed for this story find the majority of the issues surrounding the shuttle to come from lack of communication between the university and students.
Students are not the only ones frustrated with the lack of communication when it comes to shuttle times on campus. Academic advisors say that when working with students on their semester class schedules they must take the shuttle times into consideration for students without their own modes of transportation.
QU basketball players Dami Adeyinka and Marta Rivera stood near the cafeteria on Main Campus early in the fall semester. They were studying the posted shuttle schedule and waiting for the bus to arrive which, according to the posted schedule was 2:45 p.m.
They waited until 3 p.m. and the shuttle never came. They were forced to call a friend to pick them up for a ride.
Jacob Wenger is a junior at QU who is a member of the university’s marching band. Wenger rides the shuttle bus on a weekly basis to get from Main Campus to his North Campus classes. He never really complained much about the shuttle being late until one day in November.
“I had class at 2 p.m. and the shuttle usually would arrive at 1:50 p.m. to get me to class on time. The shuttle didn’t arrive until 2:06 p.m. that day which made me about 12 minutes late to class,” Wenger said.
Wenger has been riding the shuttle at QU since he was a freshman and never seems to have any major issues with the schedule. Sometimes he doesn’t even realize the shuttle is running late because he is patient.
“I can get zoned out at times and play games on my phone while waiting on the bus to arrive while I look at my watch and start to wonder what could possibly be making the shuttle take so long,” Wenger said.
When students run into a situation where they’re going to be late for class, they usually take matters into their own hands and carpool with a friend or maybe even a stranger on campus who could be going in the same direction.
QU contracts shuttle service with the city of Quincy
Marty Stegeman is the director of transportation for Quincy. He runs and schedules the city buses, and the shuttle buses at QU. The city of Quincy has a contract with QU to provide the shuttle bus option. Stegeman provided QUMedia with the official shuttle schedule. It is different than the one printed in the student planner, and the one hanging just inside the door of A Building at North Campus.
“The appropriate schedule each shuttle driver should have, they should have a copy. They are your primary contact as far as knowing when and where they are going to be,” Stegeman said.
Stegeman told QUMedia there have been times where drivers had to come off route and be replaced by another driver that would have led to a delay in arrival times. He also said the drivers are accommodating and help students get to where they need to go.
Students without vehicles can also take advantage of the local bus routes to get around Quincy. A QU student ID card allows students to freely travel on the Quincy Transit buses. The nearest fixed-route city bus stops near Quincy University are located at the corner of North 18th and Broadway streets, North 18th and Elm streets, and North 18th and Chestnut streets.
The fixed routes can take students anywhere from downtown Quincy to as far east as Walmart. The bus stops are on Google Maps which makes it easy to navigate the routes. The routes are not a 24-hour service and the recommended last trip time back to campus is 5 p.m.
“The latest time a student should be on a fixed-route bus is 5 p.m. Anytime after that a student can be at risk for being stranded,” Stegeman said.
Snapshot of peak ridership times
Each time a student boards or departs the shuttle, it is counted as a trip. If a student rides the shuttle from Main Campus to North Campus and back, each leg counts as one trip. A student who gets on the shuttle at Main and off at North is counted as one trip, and the return ride, even after class by the same student, is a separate trip.
This chart depicts the amount of passengers who boarded the shuttle between 11:05am and 12:35pm on the Monday/Wednesday schedule. The blue columns represent the number of trips the shuttle carries every 15 minutes. The chart shows that, during the Monday/Wednesday Schedule, more students tend to use the shuttle near the top of the hour.
This chart depicts the number of trips taken between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on the Tuesday-Thursday route. This chart shows a spike in trips around 12:15 pm.
This chart depicts the trips taken on the Friday schedule. Like the Monday and Wednesday schedules, the amount of traffic increases near the top of the hour, but it is less so than the previous days. That’s because there are fewer classes scheduled on Fridays. Many classes follow the official class time schedule provided by Quincy University. There are some classes that are held at different times than what is printed on the official schedule. Those are usually, but not always, lab courses.
Class times compared with Shuttle schedule
On a cold and snowy day in November, a QUMedia reporter watched the shuttle activity just outside A Building at North Campus from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Because of the weather, many students ended up not going to class. While some students waited for the shuttle, others asked people walking to their cars for a ride to Main Campus.
“It is what it is at this point with the shuttle, sometimes it’s here on time and sometimes it’s not. I’ve gotten used to everything that comes with it so I don’t worry too much,” Markus Lofton said.
Even students with cars say making it from a North Campus class that ends at 10:45 a.m. to a Main Campus class that starts at 11 a.m. can be a struggle.
“For me, I’ve been catching the shuttle since I came here to go to North Campus. I didn’t want to have anybody go out there for me so I just rode the bus. I had to catch the 8 o’clock bus instead of the 8:15 one. The 8:15 bus would always have me late for class,” Nate Shockey said.
The current shuttle schedule does not match up with university approved class times. That means students need to plan ahead and know which shuttle will get them to class on time.
- If a student is in a class at Francis Hall from 9:05-9:55 a.m. and they have a class at North Campus, they will not make it on time using the shuttle.
- Shuttle 1 leaves at 10 a.m. and will not make it to North Campus until 10:10 a.m. which is the starting time of class.
- Students cannot rely on shuttle 2 as it leaves Francis at 9:45 a.m. and does not come back until 10:10 a.m.
- If a student is in class at Francis from 10:10-11 a.m. they cannot catch shuttle 1 to North Campus for an 11:15 a.m. class because it leaves Francis at 11 a.m.
- Shuttle 2 leaves at 10:45 a.m. and doesn’t come back until 11:10 a.m.
- A student in a class at Francis from 11:15 a.m.-12:05 p.m. cannot catch shuttle 1 to North Campus for a 12:20 p.m. class.
- Shuttle 1 leaves Francis at 12 p.m. and shuttle 2 leaves at 11:45 a.m. and doesn’t come back until 12:10 p.m.
- The shuttles leave Francis Hall before class times are over.
- A student in an 8-9:15 a.m. class would not make it to North Campus on time for a 9:30 a.m. class taking shuttle 1
- Shuttle 1 leaves Francis Hall at 9:05 a.m.
- But if shuttle 2 leaves Francis at 9:20 a.m. and is on time or early, students can make it to North campus at 9:30 a.m.
- Students in a 9:30-10:45 a.m. class from Francis would not make it to a North Campus 11 a.m. class if a student is relying on shuttle 1.
- But students could possibly make class time if they rely on shuttle 2.
- Shuttle 1 leaves Francis Hall at 10:35 a.m. and is not back until 11 a.m.
- If shuttle 2 is on time or early the bus would leave Francis at 10:50 a.m. and would make it to North Campus at 11 a.m.
Both shuttles at times seem to leave before or when class is out; that causes students to not be able to rely on the shuttle as they can’t catch one and would be late for class. For students with back-to-back classes on two different campuses, the schedule doesn’t take into consideration the time it takes to walk to the shuttle stop from fourth floor Francis Hall, or to the basement of B Building at North Campus.
Alternative ways to travel between campuses
Many students say that they have found alternate ways of transportation due to the shuttle schedules being set and a student’s schedule constantly changing. Students say it can be difficult to use the shuttle efficiently. QU administration responds if it receives complaints about the shuttle bus experience, but most students don’t file formal complaints. Instead, they find other ways to get to class.
For the students who do not own their own vehicles, alternate methods of transportation become more creative.
“Make friends,” Wade Hoover said.
While it may seem simple, having friends with vehicles can be one of the most effective ways to get to North Campus on time. Students will often help their friends get around when they cannot on their own.
“I give people rides all the time. Gas is expensive so when we ride together we are saving more than if we were riding separately. I think it’s pretty normal to help your friends out,” Macy Layton said.
Solutions to increase ridership
Students say they would ride the shuttle more if they knew they wouldn’t be late for class. They’d like the shuttle option instead of trying to find a ride in another student’s vehicle.
“I meet with the university to get accurate information online and in the books so students know they can go to those places in the book and online and know that the information is really real,” Marty Stegeman said.
Most of the students QUMedia spoke with for this story suggested solutions to improve the ridership experience:
- Create an app that tracks the times and locations of the shuttles.
- Create an email subscription that shuttle users can subscribe to for up to date information and shuttle schedules that could also alert them when there is delay or important urgent messages.
- Create a warning or alert that will pop up while students are scheduling their courses in the portal if the student tries to schedule back-to-back courses on Main and North campuses.
- Put more information on the quincy.edu website allowing students to access correct information and update the schedule to the appropriate times.
- Create a shuttle tab with a user friendly interface with the schedule.
- Explore a schedule that matches class times.
As the weather is changing and getting colder, Angel Ruiz mentioned he might have to rely on the shuttle again.
“I am a little worried because of my past experience. But I’m hoping that it does get better,” Ruiz said.
Shuttle drivers often go out of their way to accommodate students, but they also stick to the schedule they know as closely as they can.
“We are never perfect but we try best to get you to and from best way we can,” Stegeman said.