One of Loyola’s intercampus shuttles stopped running on the road, and another couldn’t drive faster than 20 miles per hour after biodiesel froze in their engines Friday, Loyola officials said. A third shuttle stopped running Tuesday for the same reason, according to the university, leaving students to wait for another shuttle or find a different way home.
During warmer months, the shuttles run entirely on biodiesel fuel — an environmentally friendly fuel made from animal fat or vegetable oil — according to Loyola communication specialist Sarah Howell. However, since biodiesel fuel freezes during the winter months, the shuttles transition to diesel fuel starting in early October. The process takes time and involves blending diesel fuel with biodiesel, Howell said.
Gretchen Carey, who manages Loyola’s transportation, didn’t respond to an interview request from The Phoenix, but Howell sent an email on her behalf.
This year, low temperatures hit earlier than the school expected, and the shuttles — which transport students between the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses — were still in the process of transitioning to diesel fuel, according to Howell. She said the engines still held traces of biodiesel fuel, which froze and caused the mechanical issues.
The first two shuttles were repaired last weekend, Howell said, and the third is being inspected by mechanics. The university keeps two backup shuttles in case there are issues with circulating buses, The Phoenix previously reported.
After the shuttle stopped on the road Friday, another one came to pick up the students. However, some students chose to find other ways to get to campus, according to Diana Raspanti, a Loyola junior who was on the shuttle when it stopped.
Raspanti took an Uber home.
“The shuttle this entire semester so far has been very unreliable,” Raspanti, 21, said. “[This experience] just kind of confirmed my feelings that something needs to be done about them.”
Throughout the semester, students have complained about long waits, inaccurate information on the shuttles’ tracking website and general unreliability, The Phoenix previously reported.
Carly Frondell, a Loyola sophomore studying film and digital media, was also on the shuttle when it stopped Friday. She said the bus driver was kind and helpful throughout the experience. She added the people in charge should’ve been more prepared because she said the bus was having issues before it started moving.
“Right before we got on the shuttle to head back to the Lake Shore Campus, it had broken down and it started back up again,” Frondell, 19, said. “I had a suspicion that it was going to break down on the way home and then it did. I think putting us on that shuttle when it had already broken down probably wasn’t the best idea.”
Raspanti, an advertising creative major, said she understood the explanation of mechanical problems and the driver handled the situation well, but she feels the shuttles need improvements in general.
“I don’t think the shuttle driver did anything wrong really,” Raspanti said. “I think he handled it perfectly fine. I don’t think the shuttles are handled as a whole very well, but I think he did the best he could.”