As its student body grows, Loyola added two new shuttles to its intercampus shuttle service this school year to increase the service’s efficiency. However, some students say the new additions don’t measure up the rest of the fleet.
The shuttle service has a total of 10 buses, with eight of them operating Monday through Friday. The new shuttles are two of the eight buses which run between Loyola’s Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses throughout the day. They have 30 seats with little standing room.
The other six buses running throughout the day have 40 seats and more standing room. The remaining two buses act as spares and are rarely used, according to Loyola Campus Transportation manager, Gretchen Carey.
The new shuttles don’t run on biodiesel like Loyola’s other shuttles, Carey said. Biodiesel is an environmentally friendly fuel made of animal fat and vegetable oil. Since biodiesel freezes, the shuttles switch to regular diesel fuel during the winter, The Phoenix previously reported.
The smaller shuttles were a last minute addition to fit the growing student body so there wasn’t enough time to create a biodiesel plan or anticipate the need for more buses, according to Carey.
“Our service provider purchases all of the biodiesel we use in the shuttles from the Loyola biodiesel lab,” Carey said. “They plan it out in advance. Because we added these [smaller] shuttles over the summer, there wasn’t a plan from them to use that fuel in the vehicles.”
Campus Transportation bases its shuttle service on ridership numbers, according to Carey. The 2017-2018 Annual Student Development Assessment reported 467,711 rides were given to students, faculty and staff via the shuttle service with a similar number the year before.
Loyola welcomed its largest class in the school’s history with 2,774 first-year students starting classes in fall 2018, according to the Loyola website.
“But as the numbers continued to grow, it became more evident to us that we needed to add more shuttles into our service,” Carey said.
However, this year, Carey said there wasn’t enough time to have new large Gillig buses — the brand of buses Campus Transportation uses — prepared for the school year.
Obtaining a large 40-passenger bus is a long process which can take about a year, according to Carey. The process of ordering a bus can take 16-18 months, according Norman Reynolds, a regional sales manager from Gillig. After it’s ordered, the buses take two weeks to manufacture before delivery. These buses can cost between $400,000-$800,000, according to Reynolds.
Since there wasn’t enough time to get the large buses, Campus Transportation worked with its provider, MV Transportation, to find shuttles for the current school year, Carey said. Campus Transportation chose the 30-seat buses because they were the largest buses available.
Campus Transportation is getting two more big Gillig buses for the 2019-20 school year, Carey said. The 30-seat buses will become additional spares, according to Carey.
Some students have expressed frustration with the smaller, used shuttle buses.
Vanessa Reese, a film and digital media and classic civilizations double major, said she doesn’t enjoy riding the 30-seat shuttles when they’re full.
“I feel much more crammed and uncomfortable when I am on a full small bus instead of a full big one,” the junior said.
Zineyra Jeteric, an exercise science major, said riding on the smaller shuttles feels less secure than the large buses.
“It’s a bumpier ride,” the junior said. “It’s also louder because of the handicap ramp that bangs against the wall every time we hit a bump.”
Some students choose not to ride the shuttles and ride the CTA. Claire Knowlton, an economics major, finds public transportation to be a smoother ride.
“I think taking the L is just much more fluid,” the first-year said. “Whenever I took the shuttle, I felt uncomfortable.”
The shuttle is intended to act as a secondary service to the CTA U-Pass program which gives students access to its buses and trains. Campus Transportation encourages students to use their pass, Carey said. The CTA U-Pass is one of the mandatory fees in Loyola’s tuition. Funding for the shuttle service comes from the Student Development fee, according to the Loyola website. The Student Development fee isn’t impacted by the 3.3 percent tuition increase for the 2019-20 year, The Phoenix previously reported. Carey said she is “not aware” of any impact the tuition increase would have on Campus Transportation and the shuttle service.