9-6-19 Sustainable Travel

An LSU Tiger Trails bus waits for students to board at Lockett Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019.

During the initial rain from Hurricane Laura on Aug. 24, a group of rain-drenched students waited under a stairwell for Tiger Trails buses to arrive.

One of these students, geology junior Lauren Zachary, waited for two hours.

The group of 10-12 students had a system where one person would stand at the door of the stairwell and alert the others when a bus was approaching. They also used the Tiger Trails app to track the bus they needed to board. When it was close, they would run out to the unprotected bus stop and wait.

“[The drivers] would point at the sign on the door that said ‘max occupancy’ and just keep going,” Zachary said.

She ultimately had four buses pass her by before she was able to board one, dripping wet and “miserable.” Zachary has asthma and chronic bronchitis, so she found the two hour wait in a storm particularly concerning.

After this experience, Zachary decided to stop using Tiger Trails altogether.

“I don’t want to be late for my classes, and I’m not going to wake up three hours early just to give myself the required legroom to make sure I get to campus on time,” Zachary said. “It’s too stressful.”

While Zachary agrees with occupancy being limited in some manner, she said the buses’ new 25% capacity is too low.

“Right now it’s not a usable resource,” Zachary said.

When discussing ways the bus system could improve, Zachary said raising the max occupancy to even 50% would help.

“I was on a full bus with eight people, and there was plenty of room where other people could have been there with social distancing,” Zachary said. “I think that’s an option.”

Zachary said using a percentage or specific number of people per bus may not be the best method.

“A lot of people that are riding the bus are roommates and people that are exposed to each other daily who could reasonably sit together,” Zachary said. “It’s very situational. It shouldn’t be such a strict exact number. It was storming, and we were drenched, maybe there should be some leeway there.”

LSU Transportation Demand Manager Josh Galasso said while he recognizes the inconvenience of capacity restrictions, it’s something that can’t be helped.

“We’d love to have more people riding the buses, but that’s something we can’t do until the federal, state and local governments lift those restrictions,” Galasso said.

In fact, the entire U.S. transit system is stuck in the same dilemma, Galasso said. Capacity restrictions exist nationwide, and LSU is no exception.

“We tried everything we could to prevent it from being 25%,” Galasso said. “It’s something we’re forced to do. We’re working with the regulations that are in place.”

Galasso said the department has only received four complaints this semester regarding capacity restrictions. One of the reasons for this may be that students aren’t aware of how to report complaints, or simply don’t feel comfortable doing so.

“I didn’t even know that calling to complain was an option,” Zachary said. “I’m not the type of person who would call and complain.”

If other students have experienced long wait times for Tiger Trails buses and would like to submit a report, LSU’s Parking and Transportation office can be reached at 225-578-5000 or parking@lsu.edu.

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