For students and faculty that rely on public transportation, changing familiar bus routes can add to the confusion that comes with the new semester. The University of Georgia Transportation and Parking Services changed two of its major bus routes — the Milledge route and Health Sciences route — as of Aug. 13.
“I’m not used to it yet, and I don’t like that they changed it and didn’t say much until right when everybody got back to school,” said Reilley Shamblin, a junior fashion merchandising major from Kennesaw.
Shamblin uses the Milledge bus to commute to campus. Her commute has changed with the new routes, requiring her to board two different buses to get around.
The Riverbend-South Milledge and Vet Med routes have been altered only slightly, with two new vans and an extra stop to be implemented to the Riverbend-South Milledge route by the spring semester and the Park-and-Ride lot being added to the Vet Med route.
“We’re actually carrying 5,000 more people a day as a whole system than we were last year,” said Todd Berven, associate director of TPS.
The total daily ride count for all UGA buses is around 44,000 people, according to numbers provided by UGA Transportation and Parking Services. Last year, they estimated around 39,000.
Originally, passengers of the Milledge route could catch both south and northbound buses to campus from stops along Milledge Avenue, the most popular residential area on the route. Now, the Health Sciences route picks up southbound passengers after making its way down Prince Avenue from the Health Sciences campus at the corner of Prince Avenue and Oglethorpe Avenue.
The Milledge route now makes a full loop through campus, stopping at high-volume locations like the Tate Student Center on north campus and the Georgia Center on south campus. Its new loop concept, where only right turns are necessary, has sped up the route, Berven said.
Berven said UGA TPS and the Student Government Association worked closely in determining the new route changes.
The main reason for the changes was excess capacity on the Health Sciences route. Most buses would show up to campus nearly empty, Berven said. Adding the new stretch of Milledge Avenue has provided more passengers.
Many students have also chosen to park in off-campus lots and use the buses in order to ride in, Berven said. The Lucy Cobb parking lot, which costs $20 per month, and the Park-and-Ride lot on the corner of College Station Road and North Oconee Access Road, which costs $10 per month, are examples.
“We have a lot of students and staff using it sort of like a park and ride,” Berven said about the Lucy Cobb lot. “It’s kind of a double win for the campus and for the students, too.”
Brandon Clarizs, a junior genetics major from Roswell, drives the Milledge route during some of his shifts as a UGA bus driver. He thinks the new routes have created some issues.
“I think last year it was a lot more efficient,” Clarizs said. “Milledge was already really crowded and making it go through campus is just making things worse.”
Clarizs said, the Health Sciences bus has increased its passenger load, making the route slower overall. However, he thinks access to the Health Sciences campus directly from main campus is a plus.
Clarizs said that almost everyday he tells passengers they can’t board the bus running the Milledge route due to overcrowding. According to Berven, UGA transportation uses “tripper buses” to alleviate this issue.
The tripper buses come up behind certain buses running the highest capacity routes, especially during peak times of the day.
“You’ll never know the difference,” Berven said about the trippers.
These buses will switch routes depending on where the need is around campus, filling in the blocks of time between scheduled stops. Passengers can identify them by the “out of service” label or a lack of one.
After the most recent changes, the Health Sciences route only serves four stops on Prince Avenue. Berven said this change represents UGA’s commitment to serving its students first.
While some students may not feel comfortable with the new route changes, Allison Brannen, marketing and communications manager with UGA Auxiliary Services, said student opinion influences these types of decisions. The stop at the Tate Center, a major addition to the Milledge route, was “directly in response to customer feedback,” Brannen said.
TPS has received both positive and negative responses regarding the changes. Berven said his team is constantly trying to make UGA transportation more efficient.
“A lot of the delays, that’s something we work out,” Berven said.
Factors that most affect the speed and efficiency of bus routes include traffic congestion, communication among bus drivers and the number of passengers at any given stop. Driving through campus can still be “miserable,” Berven said, even with attempts at maximizing efficiency.
Berven said route changes are common each year, and student input may soon come in to play.