Campus Bus Service Finding New Roads For Old Routes

Sandra Lee | Staff Photographer

Sandra Lee | Staff Photographer
The ASUCI bus shuttle service has been transporting students to and from class for over 21 years.

The Associated Students of UC Irvine-operated Express Shuttle Service continues to develop in its practice by modifying the ASUCI fleet to run on biodiesel fuel, installing new bus shelters and using past sale revenues to cover costs.
Tim Rudek, director of ASUCI Shuttle Services, said that there are 18 shuttles in the current ASUCI fleet. As part of a contractual agreement with Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), the shuttle services are permitted to use two 40-foot transit buses to exclusively facilitate the Newport Beach Peninsula route, reserving a third as backup. However, according to Rudek, the agreement will expire this year on June 30. Though the deadline is rapidly approaching, Rudek has already prepared for the lost buses.
“ASUCI will be purchasing four used Blue Bird buses,” Rudek said, referring to the mass transit buses available from the Blue Bird Corporation.
The buses will go into service upon termination of the agreement. These vehicles will be converted to run on 100 percent biofuel to replace the buses loaned by OCTA. By the end of the year, the total ASUCI fleet will number 21 buses for student transportation.
Ryan Gripp, general manager of ASUCI’s Express Shuttle Services added that this year the entire existing ASUCI shuttle fleet was converted to run on biodiesel fuel. Gripp thanks the joint efforts of Parking and Transportation, Environmental Health and Safety and ASUCI for the biodiesel conversion.
The construction on East Campus will displace the previous location of the shuttle stops. The interim shuttle location is not yet known, Rudek added.
According to Rudek, two new bus shelters will replace the existing structures on West Peltason, in front of Crawford Hall.
“The new shelters will be built with enclosures for video screens which will provide GPS data tracking for the buses,” Rudek said.
With this technology, passengers will be able to see where the buses are on their routes, facilitating student schedules. The information for all routes will also be available online. Currently, shuttle services offer five different routes, which are broken down into the following: Main Campus, Arroyo Vista-Administration-Arc, Parkwest, Vista Del Campo-Administration, Vista Del Campo Norte-Administration and Newport.
Passengers on the Parkwest shuttle are required to pay a small fee. Other routes such as Main Campus, Arroyo Vista-Administration-Arc and Newport are funded by UCI’s Parking and Transportation Services. The other two shuttle routes, Vista Del Campo-Administration and Vista Del Campo Norte-Administration shuttles are paid for by the residents of their respective housing complexes as part of monthly housing fees.
For Parkwest passengers, Rudek asserted that “[bus] pass sale[s] … to student[s] and UCI affiliates cover the portion of the operating cost necessary to provide the service.”
Without this revenue, Rudek explained, the service becomes cost-prohibitive to ASUCI. The same protocol will be used for future ASUCI transportation options.
“The funding for future shuttle services outside of the UCI campus [will begin at no charge],” Rudek said.
According to Rudek, charges will only be applied once the shuttle system has proven to be successful.
For any transportation service to function well, employees must be carefully selected. Every new driver undergoes training from early July to mid-September.
Each trainee is required to complete a minimum of 48 hours of training in at least six days. New drivers are licensed by a DMV certified ASUCI general manager. Upon completion of the test, the drivers are certified with a commercial driver’s license. Starting fall quarter of 2008, new drivers will be paid $10 per hour.
Peter Fisk, a fourth-year music major and a second-year driver can attest to the rigorous hiring process.
“The interviewers want to make sure that they don’t hire students who have bad driving records,” Fisk said.
Each applicant states his or her preferred work schedule in order to balance the schedules of every shuttle driver.
“Trading shifts and having flexible hours really helps shuttle drivers balance their schedule with work,” Fisk said.
According to Fisk, the maximum capacity of each shuttle is approximately 60 students and the bus loads do not exceed that number, even at peak hours.
“The records of people who get on the bus are used to determine which shuttle route expects the most crowds and it keeps a tally on what route deserves more buses to accommodate for UCI’s community” Fisk said.
According to Gripp shuttle services employ over 70 eligible part-time student employees.
“Usually employment depends on turnover rates of graduating senior drivers … this year about 70 drivers were employed, which includes around 30 to 40 new drivers,” Gripp said.
The shuttle service can be traced back to its beginnings in the spring of 1987. According to Gripp, the shuttle launched when Erick Skaggs, the parking commissioner for ASUCI, implemented the first ever alternative transportation system introduced to UCI in the form of a “trial shuttle” program.
“It started with one rented 15 passenger van running to Balboa Island. During that first quarter of service, the van transported nearly 6,000 passengers,” Gripp said.
The program was a success and in that same year the ASUCI Express Shuttle officially began its service.
“ASUCI Shuttle systems transports nearly 10,000 passengers on its five routes … in the 2006-2007 academic year over 1.2 million students, staff and visitors rode the shuttles on and off campus,” Gripp said.