Students need expanded campus shuttle operations on the weekend

Hunter Littleton

Due to the increasingly high costs associated with both on-campus and nearby West Campus living arrangements, a significant portion of UT students each year elect to reside in neighborhoods that are an extended commute away from the campus’ core, with the Riverside area being the most common. 

In doing so, these students trade campus accessibility for affordability. 

While the UT Shuttle System already does a decent job linking students in these areas to campus, UT’s Riverside residents have noted the shuttle’s lack of weekend availability as a primary concern. UT should address these issues and pressure Capitol Metro to expand weekend access of the UT shuttle. 

Currently, the UT shuttle has a limited weekend schedule. On Saturday, the shuttle does not run at all, and on Sunday it only operates from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. with a reduced frequency of arrivals. 

In an email, CapMetro communications specialist Jenna Maxfield said the current weekend schedule has remained rather consistent since the shuttle service began, as the service attempts to balance the scale of operations with ridership needs.

“In the 30 plus years Capital Metro has been operating the UT shuttle system, it has not operated on Saturdays because there has not been ridership (or) demand to support Saturday service,” Maxfield said. “The routes have operated on Sundays, (but) the routes have not ever operated in the morning.”

However, Cecilia Garcia, Riverside resident and a frequent rider on the 670 shuttle bus that services the area, stressed the need for more weekend availability.

“The weekend ones now, I could see why they don’t do it, but people still work, people want to feel connected to campus, because we are really not connected — we live really far away,” government sophomore Garcia said. “It is inconvenient to not have access to go places because they think that there is a lack of need. There are a ton of students here that believe otherwise.”

Blanca Gamez, associate director for Parking and Transportation Services, said in an email that students can ride Capitol mainline buses for free with their UT ID, and these operate 365 days a year with constant service. 

However, these mainline buses are further away and have more stops in between, making them less timely.

To safely accommodate students that need to get to work on campus, use campus facilities or attend religious services and meetings located on campus, the University must expand UT Shuttle System hours on weekends. 

Ideally, this would allow the service to run from 11:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. However, if this duration of operations proves unmanageable, the normal seven hours of service provided on Sunday could span from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with the remaining hours being picked up by the Sure Walk and UT Night Rides programs that are sponsored by Parking and Transportation Services.

In addition to this schedule change, Parking and Transportation Services and CapMetro together should consistently survey students to measure rider satisfaction pertaining to both the riding experience and operational hours. These surveys could be sent via email, similar to many other University surveys and should be conducted at the end of each semester. 

While Riverside students are among those that are urging change, these alterations would benefit every student that relies on the UT Shuttle System. 

Littleton is a government sophomore from Waco, Texas.