At the start of this academic year, Lehigh greeted students with new friends, new classes and professors, and a new bus route to add to their daily routines.
On Aug. 29, Transportation and Parking Services kicked off its initiative to improve transportation throughout the campus. The remodeled bus routes provide students with three new forms of transportation: the Campus Connector, the Mountaintop Express and the Packer Express. The late-night TRACS service has not undergone any route changes.
Although Transportation Services staff members hope the new campus-wide routes will soon become second-nature to those who use them, the changes have served as a source of confusion to many students returning to campus.
Jon Marotta, ’18, a resident of the Sigma Phi Epsilon house, is still working to become accustomed to the new route. Marotta, who typically rides the bus to his home on the Hill, said he has had the unfortunate experience of waiting to ride up the Hill and having a bus pass by him on its new route around campus.
Robert Bruneio, the manager of Transportation Services, said the Packer Express was developed in response to the student body’s request for faster transportation around campus.
The route provides a 12-minute total loop from Packer Avenue and back to that same stop. There is a six-minute travel time to the Alpha Tau Omega and Alpha Phi stop and a six-minute return time.
Sonia Velez, ’17, a member of Student Senate’s bus transportation committee, said the committee works to represent the students and their needs. Senate acted as a liaison between the students and Transportation Services, conducting surveys and communicating the students’ requests.
The Senate bus transportation committee found that weekend buses and more frequent bus service routes were in high demand. The ever-changing student body, they observed, was in need of transportation that changed along with its needs.
The Packer Express was created with the intention of fulfilling the need for more frequent bus services.
Although students may be confused about the fact that the routes appear tailored toward riders traveling to Mountaintop Campus, Bruneio said the intention of Transportation and Parking Services was to suit the needs of various groups.
“We didn’t just target one particular group or project,” Bruneio said.
Transportation Services thought about the various moving parts constituting Lehigh’s campus, he said. When formulating the new bus transportation plan, they took into consideration a variety of factors, including car-free zones, access to Goodman Campus, Intramural Sport and athletic event attendance, students traveling to Mountaintop Campus, and needs of international students in Saucon Village.
Marotta, who lives close to the Packer Express’ Sigma Phi Epsilon bus stop, finds it inconvenient to travel all the way to Alpha Phi on the Mountaintop Express when he is passed by the Packer Express.
In response to students who feel this way, Bruneio explained the Mountaintop Express was designed to alleviate the congestion on the Packer Express during peak hours such as lunch time — Mountaintop Express is available for the overflow of students. If the Packer Express is too congested, students may ride the Mountaintop Express to the Alpha Phi stop, then walk down to their destination.
This is meant to resolve the issue of overcrowding that forced some students to have to wait for a connector bus at Packer Avenue or the second Mountaintop Express bus to arrive.
Many students living on the Hill rely on the bus system to return home, thus the Packer Express and Mountaintop Express travel times at night have caused some students to feel they have no form of transportation to get back to the top of campus.
The times of the bus services were determined based on ridership and efficiency. Bruneio said once the Packer Express and Mountaintop Express conclude their service at 6:50 p.m., the two Campus Connector buses will make all the stops that are normally on their routes, until 10:50 p.m..