Between soccer practice on Goodman Campus, afternoon classes and her Greek chapter, Samantha Margolis, ‘20, is a regular user of Lehigh University’s bus service. But to her, something is not right about the current state of the university’s transportation.
“I feel like (the buses) are always crowded, especially with the change in schedule now,” Margolis said. “It seems like a lot more people are exiting class at the same time and trying to rush to wherever they’re going. So I feel like last year, (the buses) were a lot less crowded than they are this year.”
Lehigh is currently undergoing a variety of changes. Over the past several years, the Path to Prominence has raised new capital which has led to numerous construction and renovation projects.
But it has also led to an influx of new students. The Path to Prominence calls for as many as 1,800 new students by 2023. In addition, a recent change in the class scheduling policy produced a disruption in student transit habits.
Hank Portney, ‘20, the chair of the Student Senate Facilities & Services committee, said the constant changes and the bus schedule combined cause problems.
“The broader changes across campus under the Path to Prominence initiative have created a lot of staggering changes, particularly to the bus system,” Portney said. “I wouldn’t say that crowding is the biggest issue that that has resulted in, but of course, it has created a higher traffic on the buses. The schedule changes in particular I do think are the biggest contributor to the crowding because they actually force students to all use the bus at a certain time in order to make the classes that they need to get to at Mountaintop or Goodman.”
Ally Connors, ‘20, another member of Student Senate, said a reason for transit troubles could be the apparent lack of bus drivers.
“I know that there’s been some difficulty recruiting enough bus drivers,” Connors said. “They have the resources, they have the buses. It’s just that the specific bus wages aren’t necessarily competitive in the state of Pennsylvania compared to other private bus companies.”
In spite of these problems, the Senate and Lehigh’s administration have been working to address the problem. Last year, an overhaul of the bus schedule streamlined various routes and expanded the Campus Connector line. Other transportation options are also under consideration.
Portney said the potential of bikes as a viable alternative to the bus system may help some students.
“I think it is very critical that we start looking into more bike infrastructure,” Portney said. “I think that a lot of students would bike if they found it to be easy, convenient and affordable.”
Connors said Bob Bruneio, manager of transport services, is a wonderful manager who is definitely trying his best. She said the faculty has been working to get student organizations directly involved in transportation issues.
However, Margolis said the system still needs serious change.
“I honestly don’t know what a solution would be, other than adding more buses, at more frequent times,” Margolis said. “It’s really unfair to my friends, who have classes at Mountaintop. Their teachers are accounting for students being late, which isn’t what you pay for at a university.”