At the beginning of the semester, Lehigh announced changes to the bus routes on and between campuses based on feedback from students, faculty and staff.
These changes include the addition of three bus routes to better serve Mountaintop and Goodman campuses and Saucon Village, a list of bus stops and estimated departure times was added to the transportation website.
While it is promising that the university is receptive to student feedback and is willing to make changes to the bus system to accommodate their needs, it is not entirely clear that the new routes have improved the overall service in a substantive way.
Along with these changes, the university has discontinued the TransLoc OnDemand bus service, an app designed for scheduling direct bus rides between all university campuses on any day of the week.
Though they claim this service is no longer required because the Campus Connector is servicing all three campuses on weekends, getting from Asa Packer to Goodman or Mountaintop by relying on the Campus Connector alone requires extensive time and planning.
If you are a student on campus without a car — because why would you bother with the hassle of obtaining a parking space anyway — who wants to see a basketball game on a Saturday, for example, you might have to get on the bus over an hour before the game starts to get there on time.
In fact, we are only writing about this topic because Eddie Fuhrer, ‘25, editorial board member and sports editor, encountered this problem last week.
After waiting 25 minutes for the Campus Connector to get to his stop, Fuhrer encountered the worst-case scenario: the bus was full.
With no other way to get to the game, he Ubered from one campus to another, something that should never happen at a university with public transportation.
Overall, it took Fuhrer an hour to get to Goodman. With the OnDemand service, that same ride would’ve taken 20 minutes at most.
This is not a problem on weekdays when the new bus routes are running directly from campus to campus, but it did not take Fuhrer long to find a flaw in the plan.
Additionally, the university email announcing the change noted students who work at labs late into the night would like later bus services.
This is not something the university can do due to staffing concerns, so they attempted to supplement students with Lyft codes on weeknights from 11:00 p.m. to midnight.
While it is a nice change that hopefully will allow students to work later without worrying about transportation, one hour is a tight window that may not coincide with every student’s work schedule.
In fairness to the university, it is undoubtedly a good thing that they are willing to listen to the issues that students have with the bus system and will consider making changes to it. We should not expect a new schedule to work without any kinks right from the get-go.
In the past, the university has not been as responsive to making changes to the transportation system at the behest of the student body. In fact, we’ve been writing editorials clamoring for changes to the parking system since 2016!
In the seven years since that editorial, the parking system itself has transformed, but the changes that students have been requesting have remained the same.
For example, the editorial referenced above discusses the significant difference between the cost of parking on campus from everywhere else in Bethlehem. The disparity between a parking pass on campus and street parking in the city has remained at as much as $350 dollars.
Who knows, when we inevitably write our own parking editorial this semester, maybe it will actually lead to real change. We won’t hold our breath, though.
Transportation Services is still accepting feedback on the new bus system and will hopefully be willing to make additional changes as students and administration encounter these everyday problems.
There are still issues to work out, but we can’t fault them for trying. However, Fuhrer represents a larger population of students who still struggle with campus resources, and we hope to help facilitate change.