The local commuter community always has something to say about how mundane and terrible the burden of traveling is. During school, I spend my free time studying in the school hallways. During my studies, I overhear the complaints about parking, traffic, and the absurd recent raise in gas prices. I have to agree with the rants about waiting in backed up traffic to get home, though. From Monday to Thursday I make my own commute home, where I stand in a line for anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or more. My line is a little different though — the line I stand in is for the campus connector to Carvolth Exchange in Langley.
Campus connector users are all too familiar with the struggle of trying to get home or to class in a timely matter. I spent a day interviewing as many students as possible on what their own thoughts were. Much of what I heard was displeased opinions on the matter with few solutions. Many of the harsh complaints came from the commuters who take the Carvolth-Abbotsford shuttle. Some of the solutions that my interviewees conjured up were to try getting UFV to run the shuttles instead of SUS, increasing the number of buses to and from Langley during the early morning and mid to late afternoon, and giving a separate or set number of seats to the trades campus students.
For the past week the shuttle drivers have been taking record of how many staff and students were left behind and how many people were on the bus. One of the drivers I spoke to was very kind, and let me see what had been recorded for Monday–Thursday. I was not surprised by what I saw. According to the data, the 7:30 a.m. shuttle from Carvolth-Abbotsford leaves an average of 17 students and teachers. This itself is not a big issue because another shuttle comes at 7:45 a.m. The problem is how students will begin the line-up for the shuttle before 6:00 a.m. This means that there are students who will wait in all sorts of weather in the early morning.
I received a disheartening story from a student who commutes from Langley to the Chilliwack campus: “On Wednesdays my class ends at 5:20, and the Chilliwack bus leaves at 5:30. The next bus to Langley [from Abbotsford] would be at 6:15. Unfortunately, by the time we get to [the Abbotsford] campus there’s already a huge line-up formed by Abbotsford students. Then that next bus comes at 8:00, meaning it would be roughly a two-hour wait. I didn’t get home last week until about 9:30.”
I wish I could say that was the worst of the stories I heard, but it was not. There is a student that many of us in the campus connector community know about. This student had attempted to take the 4:15 p.m. shuttle to Langley, only to be denied a spot because the shuttle was full. Two hours later, the student tried to get on the 6:15 p.m. shuttle to Langley, and once again the student was denied due to the bus already being full. The student eventually found a ride home, via other means. However, a recent change was made by one of the Abbotsford-Carvolth drivers. The driver implemented a ticket system to make sure people wouldn’t miss more than one shuttle. The driver hands out “priority tickets” to all students who couldn’t get on a bus. When the shuttle comes back to pick up the next set of students, the driver calls out for anyone with priority tickets and lets them on first.
The SUS has made a statement on the matter: aside from gathering data for the past week, which they will use to make changes to the bus schedule, they have said that the only way for them to add more buses would be to raise student fees. The campus connector has only been in place for a few years, and the SUS had not expected it to progress in the way it has.
As it stands, there will likely be changes to the campus connector schedule in the near future, but we shouldn’t expect any additional buses this year. Perhaps the SUS should look into what solutions we students have by coming out and talking to the many people in line sometimes. Maybe even share an umbrella. I only mentioned a few ideas that students had, but there is a lot of potential with the campus connector program and I look forward to seeing how it continues to grow and develop.
Image: The Cascade