A TRACS vehicle waits for students on Sept. 12, 2017, at the Packer Avenue bus stop. This year, Lehigh Transportation and Parking Services changed the map route that TRACS operates on during the week. (Kate Morrell/B&W Staff)

TRACS eliminates some off-campus stops, enforces 10-minute schedule

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TRACS’ name comes from the goal of the service: “Take a ride around campus safely.” The vans operate between academic buildings and student residences to transport students late at night or early in the morning, after regular Lehigh transportation has ended service.

Robert Bruneio, the manager of Lehigh Transportation and Parking Services, said TRACS was designed to get students to and from destinations safely as a response to increased reports of crime on or near campus.

The transportation department implemented changes to their TRACS service Aug. 28, reducing the number of stops from 21 to 17 and enforcing a 10-minute schedule.

Eliminated stops include East Fifth Street, Montclair Avenue, Fillmore Street, Linderman Library and Alumni Memorial Building.

Bruneio believes these changes will improve the reliability and quality of the TRACS service.

Bruneio said over time it seems TRACS has become a service of convenience, rather than accomplishing its primary focus.

“The complaints we were getting was that the TRACS service wasn’t reliable,” Bruneio said. “It was only serving a group of individuals. If you were at the library at night and the TRACS van was busy from lower campus students, you weren’t getting a ride for 40 minutes to an hour sometimes.”

Bruneio said reducing the number of stops will significantly decrease the wait time for a TRACS van. Vans leave from Taylor House and Packer Avenue every 10 minutes. An updated TRACS schedule and map are available online.

In lieu of the eliminated off-campus stops, a new stop was established at Polk Street.

Students have voiced frustrations about the Polk Street stop. Some are unhappy with its close proximity to the Lehigh police department.

“If the goal is to make TRACS more consistent, decreasing the amount of stops will probably help (the service) take less time,” said David Owolabi, ’20, a member of last year’s Student Senate transportation committee. “But I assume if students were in a state that police didn’t want them to see, they would not want to be there.”

However, Bruneio thinks this new stop is ideal because it is well-lit and safe.

Part of the decision to eliminate off-campus stops stemmed from safety issues. Many students would try to stop the vans at non-sanctioned stops.

“A couple of years ago, a young lady was hit by a car on Fifth Street because she was running out of the TRACS van and happened to run in front of a car,” Bruneio said.

The new TRACS service has been in effect for two weeks.

So far, Bruneio has not received any calls expressing negative feedback, but he does expect that initial student reactions to the changes will be negative.

“Last year, when we changed the bus service, folks didn’t like it for the first couple of weeks and months, but now they love it,” Brunieo said. “The students are getting back to their locations and having appointments met and getting to places on time. And that’s our mission – to make sure students get where they want to go and be reliable.”

Alanna Lynch, ’20, said she is disappointed that TRACS is no longer stopping at Linderman Library.

“Change is different,” Bruneio said. “A lot of folks don’t like change, but I think change is for the good, just like our bus service.”

Bruneio continues to look toward the future. He said he hopes to eventually expand the TRACS service.

“We have to look at future development and future growth of the university,” Bruneio said. “In fact, my next goal is to meet with Student Senate and student groups and ask what they want out there. It’s important to me, and it’s important to us.”

He said he wants TRACS to one day run on buses similar to the Packer Express, rather than vans, so it can accommodate more students. He said this is not yet a possibility because of budget restrictions and incompatible roads.

“We’re all about the students,” Bruneio said. “I want to help our students as best as we can. But realistically, what’s going to help you is reliable service and consistency.”

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