Thursday, July 25, 2024

Shuttle drivers quit over COVID-19

By Olivia Bousquet

Toothpaste may be running low, clothing goes on sale, snacks need to be bought and work should start on-time, so students rely on the campus shuttle bus to get them to necessary stores.

SUNY Plattsburgh’s campus shuttle runs from 11 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. And it’s free of charge – well, except for the one-time fees paid at the beginning of the semester.

But, students have been frustrated with the inconsistency of arrival times.

The College Auxiliary Services implemented new sanitation guidelines, which were put in place by New York’s Public Transportation guidelines. The reopening required all passengers to wear masks and have hand sanitizer readily available. Students must sign-in on a sheet for contact tracing, which would allow tracers to find out if students were near anyone with a positive COVID-19 case.

Drivers are required to wipe down high touch points before and after each round, and no air conditioning or heating is allowed, air ventilation should be coming only from open windows. The campus shuttle has bench seats that could seat up to 15 passengers, but now the seat behind the driver is blocked off for bags and students must try to distance themselves as much as possible.

However, students can still smush up against each other, which doesn’t allow for proper social distancing during their trip.

While the cleanliness of the shuttle doesn’t seem to be the problem, students are more frustrated about the constant delays. As the cooler days approach the North Country, students don’t want to sit on cold metal benches waiting for the shuttle longer than they should. Students should be able to rely on the campus shuttle to get them to stores.

“I totally understand the Student Association and the students’ frustration around this because myself and my team have been struggling with it too,” College Auxiliary Services Executive Director Dana Kellerman said about the inconsistent arrival times of the shuttle. “We’ve always had a pretty lean driver schedule here historically before I started, then we built a pipeline of drivers. So we had those that were regularly scheduled to meet the requirements of our commitment to the [Student Association].”

Kellerman felt prepared for the semester and the arrival of students, until three of her four drivers quit the morning of campus opening after speaking with their families and doctors. Most of the drivers were older with higher risks to contracting COVID-19. The process of getting new drivers is extensive, with background checks that can take up to five to 10 days and new drivers having to receive specialized training.

“We were fortunate that we now have five drivers, so that will enable us to bring the shuttle back up to its normal running schedule, actually starting [Sept. 24],” Kellerman said. “But, it’s taking from the start of campus to now to get us back and here, we thought we were being proactive.”

Students get on and off the shuttle at the Angell College Center. The shuttle follows a route with four stops starting at Wal-Mart, Champlain Centre Mall by Target, Market 32 and ends at Family Dollar. The shuttle arrives and departs on the hour and 30 minutes after the hour, but from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday two vans will be operating.

“I was out there for like 15 minutes waiting for [the shuttle] and then one girl came outside and said, ‘shuttles are not going to run until 4 o’clock,’” SUNY Plattsburgh junior Alicia Fisher said. “That’s when I started walking.”

The shuttle should be a reliable service for students, especially those without any other way to get around Plattsburgh. Fisher said taxi cabs, Lyft and Uber are all too expensive, and can take a long time before picking anyone up.

Students should not feel their only option for quick transportation is to walk.

Hopefully with the new drivers, the campus shuttle will be running more effectively than before. There are an anticipated five regular drivers and two backup drivers to be working soon.

Kellerman encourages students to reach out to College Auxiliary Services via email with any improvement suggestions. CAS will try to implement as many solutions as possible.



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