Snowstorm causes UB Stampede delays, difficult commutes

Students question if UB should have remained open Monday amidst transportation woes

Some students spent as much time waiting for the Stampede Monday as they would have had spent in class had they arrived to school on time.

Students huddled in long lines in the snowfall for as long as 50 minutes Monday morning as they awaited the arrival of the Stampede buses, which run to and from North and South Campus.

“The lines were almost to the libraries,” said senior biomedical sciences major Joe Jessee about the line for the Main circle loop on South campus. “People even in the back of the line had been waiting for over 10 minutes. People were coated with snow.”

The buses were delayed by the snowstorm that hit the Western New York region Sunday night and Monday morning. UB Spokesperson John Della Contrada said the buses were taking an average of 45-50 minutes to go between campuses early Monday morning. Some students were frustrated the university didn’t send out an alert through its text messaging system that morning saying the buses were delayed.

The storm also prevented some commuter students – including those who live in the University Heights off South Campus – from attending class due to the road conditions and their streets not being plowed. Even some North campus students were unable to make it to class on foot because they said the campus streets and sidewalks were not properly plowed.

Many students took to social media to voice their displeasure with UB for remaining open and because of the Stampede delays. Some sent photos of long bus lines and their cars buried under snow to the popular twitter handle UB Problems. Other students even posted photos of snow inside UB buildings.

Jessee began an online petition for UB to cancel classes if the university cannot provide adequate transportation services due to weather. By Tuesday night more than 2,500 people had signed the petition.

Just a few months ago, UB came under scrutiny for remaining open during the first few days of the historic November lake-effect snowstorm. UB did not cancel classes until Nov. 20, while many other locals colleges canceled classes on Nov. 19 and some even on Nov. 18.

Della Contrada said there were no local travel bans and that all major roadways around the campus and all local colleges were open Monday.

“Unfortunately, between 8-9 a.m. the snow began to accumulate faster than was forecast near the South Campus and throughout Buffalo, which caused some issues with snow removal and bus travel between the South and North Campuses due to road conditions on public streets,” Della Contrada said about the Stampede delays in an email.

There were 16 buses in circulation Monday – two more than usual – “in response to transit delay times and to help alleviate long lines,” according to Della Contrada. He said that transit time in between campuses was near normal by 10:30 a.m., as the buses were delayed by only 10 minutes at that time.

Still, many students felt the university should have closed because of road conditions and the fact that buses could not get students to class in an efficient amount of time.

“They should try to understand that it is not safe for us to be out in those types of conditions, especially students who drive,” said sophomore legal studies major Ginette Malpartida.

Jessee felt UB should notify students of any bus delays in a more active manner.

UB sent out an alert at 6:26 a.m. Monday that classes and activities would be held as scheduled, but no alert was sent out regarding the delays of the Stampede. The UB alert page posted at 8:30 a.m. Monday that students should expect a longer than normal wait at the bus stops. UB did not use its emailing system to contact students about this update, rather a student would have to log into the UB alert web page to view this.

Della Contrada said UB is considering providing students with text communications informing them of delays, as well as adding additional bus routes when delays do occur.

Jessee lives in the University Heights and relies on the Stampede buses to get to North Campus. When he arrived at the Main Street bus loop near South Campus Monday, the lines were going back as far as the Health Sciences Library.

He said some students told him they had been waiting for as long as 45 minutes.

On his Stampede ride back to South, which he says took about an hour, Jessee saw a Twin City Ambulance struggling to get a person out of a home because of the snow in the streets and the driveway.

Seeing that and that there was still long bus lines at South Campus prompted Jessse to loudly exclaim to the line, “If I made a petition that we would have snow days on days like this, who would sign it?”

Jessee got a “pretty positive response” from 20 to 30 people who yelled back, so he printed a petition for UB to close and handed it out to the line. He got about 100 signatures in less than two hours.

“I decided, ‘OK I should probably make an electronic petition,” he said.

Jessee’s petition says that because all students pay a transportation fee as a part of their tuition, UB should not hold classes if the transportation is not running efficiently. The online petition got more than 2,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.

“People are seriously worked up about this and they want the petition to have an impact,” Jessee said.

Jessee said he plans to send the petition to UB president Satish Tripathi and Provost Charles Zukoski, he just has not decided how to go about doing it yet.

Some students did not even have the opportunity to wait in line for the Stampede. Malpartida said she had “two failed attempts” to walk to the bus loop from her Englewood Avenue apartment – first because her street was not plowed, and then because her friend could not pick her up because he got stuck in the snow for two hours.

The City of Buffalo is responsible for plowing the streets in the University Heights. UB has its own plows remove snow from its on-campus parking lots and streets. Della Contrada said UB would strongly consider helping the city plow off campus streets if they were asked in an emergency.

But UB had its own issues plowing North and South Campus Monday, as students who live in North Campus apartments had difficulty getting to class on foot.

Omar David, a junior biological science major, said he could not attend his job at the Governors Hall fitness center this morning because the snow was up to his knees when he opened his Hadley Village apartment door at 6 a.m.

Brittany Bell, a junior English and communication major who uses an electronic wheelchair, got stuck in the snow on her way to class from her Flint Village apartment Monday morning because she said the streets and sidewalks were not properly plowed.

Bell, who chose to live on campus as opposed to commute from West Seneca because she thought it would make getting to class easier, said her apartment complex director told her Flint Village is not plowed if there is less than 2 inches of snow. Bell said her chair could get stuck in less than 2 inches of snow.

Bell gives a form to the office of Accessibility Resources detailing her route around campus for every day of week so those pathways can be plowed. She said the problem is that she must communicate with both the accessibility office and Flint Village, as Flint is responsible for plowing its own paths. If the communication falls through anywhere, she gets stuck.

“I get screwed because I get stuck,” Bell said. “It’s really a small route I need [plowed] … I get stuck almost every time it snows.”

Some students drove to campus despite their concerns over the weather because they feared being penalized by their professors. Della Contrada said UB stresses that professors will not penalize students for missing classes or assignments because they could not make it to class due to inclement weather.

Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs A. Scott Weber sent a letter to faculty telling them to be accommodating to students who were impacted by delays.

Some professors canceled classes themselves Monday. This did not solve the problem for senior health and human services major Jenna Forman though, who said she spent a half hour shoveling snow her off her car at her University Heights house, only to arrive at her class to find a note on the door that said the class was canceled.

Forman said her professor did not send an email notifying students of the cancelation.

She said UB should have a policy that every professor is required to email students of a cancelation by a certain time before class. Weber said he is not aware of any policy mandating professors to email students of a cancelation, but said he thinks the majority of faculty does so if possible.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory until 4 a.m. Thursday. UB reviews its procedures to storms after every snowstorm. Della Contrada said the university is open to hearing suggestions from students.

Jessee said he would want to see UB have a “snow community initiative,” where a group of students help the community clear the streets when UB cancels classes.

“I would have been happy to be a part of a collaborative that makes sure that ambulance situation doesn’t happen, rather than sitting on a bus,” Jessee said.