The Bloomington, Ind.-based Indiana University's IU Campus Bus system has accommodated a burst in student enrollment with a new night service and vehicle reconfigurations.
As Bloomington, Ind.-based Indiana University (IU) has seen a healthy boost in enrollment, the IU Campus Bus system has accommodated the burst in student influx with a new night service and vehicle reconfigurations. In the last fiscal year, the transit system carried 3.5 million riders, trumping the previous year’s record by 300,000 passengers, an increase of more than 10 percent over the past year.
Perry Maull, operations manager for IU Campus Bus, said that the recently implemented Night Owl Service, which runs three routes from midnight to 3:00 a.m., brought in about one-third of that increase. Additionally, student enrollment has gone up from about 38,000 to nearly 42,000 over the past four years. As a result, passenger boardings have jumped from 70 per hour to 84 an hour.
Because IU Campus bus does not receive federal or state operating assistance and is solely funded for their operational costs by student transportation fees — $58 a semester per full-time student, with a smaller fee for part-time students or during the summer session — they needed to find a way to accommodate the additional students without buying more buses.
“We share a maintenance facility with the city buses and Bloomington Transit, that was federally assisted, but our biggest [funding source] is the transportation fee revenue,” Maull said.
IU Campus Bus runs a fleet of 27 Gillig low floor buses. During the school year, they operate five routes, using 20 buses for each. To accommodate more riders they implemented a suggestion from one of their student bus drivers who is a Hong Kong native. They removed the forward facing seats in the front of the bus, leaving only the flip seats in the wheelchair area, creating more standing room. With students boarding the bus for an average of only three or four stops, IU realized they could pack more people in standing than sitting.
"You take out those seats, where maybe two people were sitting and you can stand four or five. Plus it allows them to enter and exit more easily because they’re not trying to move around the middle aisle,” Maull said.
In an additional effort to mitigate crowds, IU Campus Bus has tailored bus service to when classes begin and end, giving the drivers a break when students are in class.
Student transportation fees are projected to bring in a total of $4.4 million for the upcoming school year, Maull said. “I’m hoping it’ll raise that, let me put it that way, that’s what the budget is. We never know with enrollment. It has gone up the last four years, but you never know until they all show up in the fall. When the economy goes down, enrollment goes up. But is that going to continue as the economy stays down? Will students be able to stay in school? That’s the big question.”