Passengers peeved with sluggish Stampede
Frustrated students pay involuntary $171.75 transportation fee every semester
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
Don Salinda Pathirage was in a hurry to get from his Winspear apartment to North Campus and thought he’d hop on the UB Stampede, which is supposed to run every 20 minutes. He waited two hours – the time in which six buses were supposed to come – and no bus showed up. Pathirage, an international student who doesn’t drive in Buffalo, gave up and walked home.
When he went back the next day and waited two and a half hours, he’d had enough.
“It’s not acceptable,” said Pathirage, a senior chemistry major, who was left waiting Aug. 25 and 26. Students called the transportation office both days but nobody answered. “It’s not a charity. It’s paid for entirely.”
UB students pay an involuntary $171.75 every semester for a “transportation fee,” the majority of which goes to the Stampede. The 28-bus fleet runs 24 hours a day. Many feel they haven’t been getting their money’s worth this semester; students say the buses have been running far behind schedule. UB, however, insists everything is normal.
Chris Austin, assistant director of parking and transportation services, said there were three buses servicing campus the weekend of Aug. 24-26, which is standard for a weekend during daytime hours. Austin said the Stampede will have more buses available for that weekend next year.
The late buses weren’t just a problem during opening weekend, however. Four passengers tweeted complaints to the @UBSpectrum Twitter account last week.
“It’s a time-of-day issue,” Austin said. “On weekdays, we go back to that peak period of classes – that quarter to each hour, that 10 to each hour. Those are our peak points where students may need to wait a couple of buses before being able to board one.”
Some passengers, however, aren’t satisfied with being told they just have to wait. Pathirage said it seems one bus has disappeared from the schedule.
“On average, the buses have been 20 minutes late,” Pathirage said. “It’s been really intolerable wondering when it’s going to show up. One just went to The Bermuda Triangle, it seems.”
On the opening weekend he was left waiting, Pathirage was headed to Capen Library to use Python – a program his computer won’t run – for homework. But faculty members have also run into problems with the Stampede. Andrew Stott, director of the honors college, takes the bus every day.
“I’m from London, where nobody owns a car because it would be crazy to,” Stott said. “I want to use as much public transport as possible, but coming home, specifically, it’s very frustrating to stand there and watch the full buses go past one after the other while the bus stop fills up with hot, sweaty people who just want to go home because it’s the end of the day.”
Austin said a bus will only drive by without picking up passengers if a driver is done with his shift for the day, in which case another bus should be there a couple of minutes later.
“I don’t understand why there aren’t more buses to South Campus at peak times,” Stott said. “I’ve never really had a problem with it before. It seems to me there are just too many full buses – whether it’s more people on campus, whether they’re not running enough.”
Pathirage took action; he left a complaint immediately on the parking and transportation website, but nobody responded until he emailed again two weeks later – calling the Stampede’s early-year service “appalling and unprofessional” – and carbon-copied UB President Satish Tripathi.
“I think the [parking and transportation office’s] apology was involuntary,” Pathirage said.
Michael Twum, a junior business and communication major, rides the Stampede three to four times a day, five days a week.
“I seriously think they should see when classes are and see when optimal times are for the need of transportation,” Twum said in an email. “I mean classes in the morning seem like a time when you need to have a lot more buses than 9 p.m. I remember one day last week, when I tweeted about the issue, a bus driver told everyone on the bus to complain because there are not enough buses coming. So if bus drivers are telling students to complain, it seems like a serious problem to me.”
Stott said he typically has no qualms with the Stampede. This year has been different.
“It is a busy time and I understand that, but still,” Stott said. “You’d think they’d put more on. The roads aren’t that busy. It’s not like they’re snarled up in traffic.”
UB got new Stampede buses this semester. The new buses have four fewer seats but can hold more weight. Austin said the new Stampedes can transport more students during peak periods than the old buses. There are also 28 buses in the new fleet – four more than last year’s fleet. Austin said the buses transport around 24,000 passengers each weekday.