New policy requires UB ID to use buses
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 10:08
On Monday, UB students were pelted by rain as they fumbled to retrieve their UB IDs, surprised by a new university policy requiring them to scan their cards in order to step onto the blue buses.
Transportation and Services implemented a “Swipe ‘n’ Ride” system on all 21 of the UB Stampede buses on the first day of classes as a way to collect data about the people riding the buses and make the Stampede a safer mode of transportation, according to university officials.
The new procedure for riding the Stampede buses – and not UB Shuttles – requires each passenger to swipe his or her UB ID card to ride. When The Spectrum inquired about the cost of the project, UB Spokesman John Della Contrada stated, “There are no additional costs to the university for the system,” in an email.
A 5-by-7-inch touch screen is adjacent to the machine, which will flash green or red. Green signifies the card is valid and red means it is not.
If a passenger does not have a UB ID, he or she will be required to present some form of identification associated with UB, such as a ticket for an on-campus game or concert.
Some people on campus, like bus driver Jessie Brooks, are having problems with the new system.
On Monday, Brooks, who has been a Stampede driver since 1998, was driving a bus with a broken swipe system. She said the power light was on, but the screen was black.
She spoke to maintenance and they told her to record the number of people who boarded the bus by hand on a clipboard and not to worry about the computer.
The next day, over 400 cards on her bus showed up red, but she let the people on the bus anyway because “if I didn’t, I’d have an empty bus,” she said. After departing from the bus stop, she made an announcement to her passengers telling them if their card showed up red, to get it checked out at the UB Card office, located in the Student Union.
When Talia Schwartz, a sophomore psychology major, boarded the bus Tuesday afternoon, she was surprised to be asked to swipe her UB ID.
“I felt so bad because I was holding up the line as I searched through my stuff like an idiot,” Schwartz said. “This system is going to slow down the process of getting onto the bus, which is already slow. People ride the bus as a faster way to get to class. If you plan on just making it in time for class and you have to wait for everyone to swipe their cards, you’re going to be late.”
Drivers are allowed to make exceptions for students who have lost their card as long as the “person genuinely appears to not be able to locate it on their person” or if their damaged card won’t swipe properly, according to the UB Transportation website.
Chris Austin, assistant director of UB Parking and Transportation Services, believes these “technological hiccups” are because Swipe ‘n’ Ride is still in its “soft launch period.” For the next five weeks, bus drivers are instructed to be lenient toward students who don’t have their UB card or who are denied by the system.
He also believes this opening week is an education and announcement period to inform students that they need their ID in order to board the bus and to fix most of the “hiccups.” He said, by the end of September, students should be used to presenting their UB cards in order to ride the Stampede.
Still, some students don’t want to change their routine.
Brooks has noticed she is arriving late and is “rushing to catch up” at certain bus stops because she has to wait for all of the passengers to find their cards and then swipe into the system.
“This policy is designed to ensure campus transportation services are accessible and available for members of our campus community, while also providing a safe and secure environment,” according to the Parking and Transportation Services website.
Schwartz and Brooks agree that safety measures are something UB should implement on the buses. Schwartz said she understands the need for a swipe system for students traveling between South Campus and North Campus at night because sometimes that is unsafe.
“We need this in these times for both the students and the drivers,” Brooks said. “Hopefully when all of the kinks are worked out, it will be good for overall campus safety.”
Austin said the primary focus of the Swipe ‘n’ Ride is the data collection. This data will be used to “effectively manage thousands of vehicles on campus.” It will also be used as a marketing tool.
“Let’s say juniors are riding much less than freshmen,” Austin said. “That lets us know, from a transportation standpoint, that we can key in on the junior population and encourage them to use our transit system rather than using motor vehicles to get around campus.”
Austin isn’t sure what the ending impact will be, but in a press release, Maria Wallace, director of parking and transportation services, said, “this change reflects the Division of Student Life and Services’ commitment to service improvement and assessment.”