Take a Ride Around Campus Safely, better known as TRACS, provides late-night safe rides to Lehigh students after regular bus and transportation hours. Lately, however, students have been complaining that the services vans are not meeting their needs.
Students often use and appreciate the TRACS vans for their nighttime transportation needs. Since the vans run on an extended path that runs both on and off campus and includes stops on E. 5th and Montclair Streets, students use the system primarily as a safe ride when intoxicated and heading back home. The weekends, therefore, see much higher passenger traffic than the average Monday or Wednesday nights. This semester, students have been complaining that the weekend vans are overcrowded with intoxicated students. Because of this, TRACS drivers cannot accommodate everyone in the vans and often pass students waiting at stops. Such a situation causes students to wait long periods of time for the next van to come around, still with no guarantee of a seat.
Alyssa Wedge, ’16, said that while the TRACS drivers themselves are always extremely friendly, it is problematic when they are forced to leave students waiting at stops because of overcrowding. “At certain points of the night, the vans are always crowded, and there usually are not any free seats…you’re stuck waiting for another van to come by or are forced to walk home,” she said.
Wedge pointed out that she feels the system is usually most crowded during the winter months and the first few weeks of the year.
“The freshmen tend to be the ones crowding the vans, so if you are trying to go to the Hill, you’re better off walking to stops where the freshmen aren’t trying to catch a ride to their dorm,” Wedge said.
Tyler Crocco, ’16, said that TRACS drivers always stop, even when full, to tell students they are full instead of just driving by. Generally, the campus sentiment is that TRACS is a safe ride home, and students tend to appreciate that the drivers will not try to get them in trouble unless they are doing something that will directly jeopardize the safety of other passengers.
However, aside from overcrowding and making sure that everyone has a seat, “the drivers (are) not overly concerned with safety,” Crocco said.
Bob Bruneio, the manager of Transportation Services, encourages students to voice their issues with TRACS by calling or emailing him. When asked directly about the complaints students have been voicing, Bruneio said, “we can’t fix it unless it’s a problem.”
“In the master plan of Transportation Services…for the general campus community, (adding more buses) is in the works,” Bruneio said. “But I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take because of all the planning that goes into that…we are doing cost analysis and things like that as we speak.”
It should be very encouraging to the campus community that Transportation Services is working on a solution to TRACS and general bus overcrowding problems. Bruneio said his office works very closely with Student Senate and tries to hear all of their concerns and work quickly to implement solutions.
Students coming to and from the library–not just from parties–also use TRACS. These students also have voiced concerns about the unruliness of other students.
“(The ability to) ‘take a ride around campus safely’ is our mission,” Bruneio said. “The drivers are instructed to try to react to those situations in a calm and orderly manner.”
Recently, Bruneio said, one TRACS passenger became unruly around 10 p.m., and the driver stopped the van and asked the passenger to leave when they refused to tone down their behavior. “If (passengers) don’t leave (when directed to), the driver has communication with the police and will call the police for service,” Bruneio said. He stressed that drivers don’t like to make a habit of calling the police, as drivers prefer students to not fear police involvement simply if they get on the van intoxicated.
Transportation Services understands and want students to feel comfortable taking TRACS, Bruneio said.
“Generally what happens is…the folks listen to the drivers, but if they don’t, safety is paramount,” Bruneio said. “They stop the van if they feel it’s unsafe and offer additional resources.”
Overall, Bruneio wants the students to know that TRACS is there for students’ safety.
“We want to be transparent,” Bruneio said. “We want to let the students know we’re here to service the students. However, we’re here to make sure your environment is safe. We want to provide the best possible service. And if we’re not, then call us and let us know…you should not feel unsafe on a transport bus.”
“(The) key word is ‘safety,'” Bruneio said. “Its not ‘convenience.’ It’s not ‘bringing you back to your dorm.’ It’s safety.”