Drunk Bus Sobers Up

It’s 11:00 on Saturday night and well over 50 freezing students have congregated in front of Wing-Davis-Wilks dorm. No it’s not a protest -they’re anxiously waiting for the off-campus bus. As the lights of the bus come around the corner, the scene turns to chaos as students rush at the bus to acquire a spot on the magic carpet that will bring them downtown. For those students who get pushed aside or trampled and don’t make it onto the bus, there’re in luck. Another off- campus bus will be arriving in 15 minutes to bring them to their Saturday night destination. The department of parking and transportation has renovated the Friday and Saturday night bus schedule and route this semester, resulting in the creation of two off-campus buses and the removal of the on campus bus, transportation manager Michael Altman said. The new schedule works like this. On Friday and Saturday nights only, there will be one off-campus bus that starts at WDW at 6:15 p.m. and returns at 15 and 45 past the hour. A second off-campus bus will leave WDW at 6:30 p.m. and return on the hour and half hour, Altman said. After 2 a.m. service will only be provided every 30 minutes, with the last bus arriving at WDW at 3 a.m. (it does not take on any passengers), according to the transportation Web site. Other changes include a change of route (described in the grey text box on this page). Specifically the bus will no longer be traveling north of Pearl Street. Altman said the change was made after meeting with the SGA, police services, and risk management. “We were having a very difficult time with masses of students who became somewhat unruly,” he said. In that area, north of Pearl Street, a lot of people were chasing the bus down, banging on the bus, or hanging onto the side of the bus, Altman said. UVM Bus driver Dave Lobdell, who drives the off campus on Friday and Saturday night, hopes the changes will make his job driving more manageable. “Last weekend was the first time I drove without grinding my teeth,” he said. “It is an issue of safety, and the new route is the safest route for our drivers to take,” Altman said. “The new route will allow us to do the 30 minute route safely and not rush,” he said. In response to the students who live north of Pearl Street, Altman said, “We are trying to cover as much as we can.” He added that a lot of people who lived in the area behind Waterman felt their needs weren’t being served with the old route. “It’s hard to do everything for everybody,” Altman said. UVM senior Liam Carroll said, “I think it’s a good idea, because most people that are going downtown are drinking, and I don’t know anyone who wanted to get off north of Pearl. Most people just want to go straight down Pearl as fast as possible.” In addition, the two new late night buses will each have one security guard starting at 10 p.m. Altman said the security guards are there because “A lot of students at that time are in a ‘heightened state of excitement’ and we don’t want the driver to have to worry about it.” “Towards the end of last semester the bus was becoming unruly,” Altman said. He noted a situation towards the end of fall semester where UVM police were called to the L/L stop because people were rushing the bus. Altman also said that on the new weekend run, they are trying to limit the number of people on the bus to 50 for safety reasons. This would allow for 30 people to sit, with 20 standees. “50 people means the bus is full, but not packed like sardines. It will also allow people to get on and off the bus without crawling all over other people,” Altman said. UVM sophomore and geography major Audrey Arnold said that she didn’t understand the new 50 person limit on weekend buses only. “Recently when I’ve been riding the on campus bus during the week it’s been ridiculously over crowded and there are over 50 people. If this new limit is for safety why are they only enforcing it on Friday and Saturday nights?” Altman said that the new rider limit should be countered with the addition of a second off campus bus. “Hopefully the fact that’s there 15 minute service will spread the crowd out,” Altman said. UVM driver Natalie Billings, who drives the off campus bus Monday through Thursday, said in response to the new route, “I think time-wise is a good idea because people downtown waiting in the cold will only have to wait 15 minutes. “But I don’t think the route is perfected. There was a girl standing outside U-Heights last weekend for at least half an hour waiting for an on-campus to go to WDW, but there isn’t one,” Billings said. She added that the route will again need to be changed in the fall with the addition of the Davis Center. Billings said she hasn’t heard any major complaints from the drivers who drive Friday and Saturday nights, adding that “Dave’s only complain is when students in the flip that back door switch to let their friends on.” In response to the off campus route no longer going north of pearl street, Billings said, “I think that there are parties down there, but I don’t think changing the route will limit the number of people who go to parties.”