3 years ago
Anwesha Bhattacharjee
Web Editor

In the world of business, clients and profits are lost when deadlines and time schedules are unmet.

For NASA, a delay in a shuttle launch can cost millions of dollars.

Yet, for all this talk of time being money, UTD’s 883 Comet Cruiser runs with a mind of its own. Time for this shuttle isn’t of the essence, doesn’t cost a million dollars a second and leads to no losses which might be why, with the new summer schedule in place, the Comet Cruiser doesn’t seem to be running on any schedule at all.

The inefficiency is unusual, because decisions on bus routes on campus are usually made by Parking and Transportation based on traffic statistics and demand.

In the regular semesters, the 883 runs once every 20 minutes from the Berkner, McCallum and Bush Turnpike bus stops, with a total of three buses an hour. The operation has been vastly successful, even handling peak hour traffic well.

Every summer, the schedule reverts back to a less frequent service: two buses an hour every 30 minutes, scheduled to depart from Berkner both ways at 15 and 45 past the hour toward McCallum and Bush Turnpike. The downsizing is justified, since the summer months are very slow in traffic.

This summer, that didn’t happen.

There’s a UTD Express that runs only between McCallum and Berkner. There are two other buses that run on the old summer schedule.

What this means for passengers is that if they’re headed to Bush Turnpike, they have only two buses an hour, but if they’re going toward McCallum, they have four buses, every 15 minutes, departing from Berkner. But, if they’re going to the Waterview Science and Technology Center, they have only two buses an hour.

Or at least, that is what the Comet Cruiser website states.

In reality, none of this is happening. Drivers are having a hard time sticking to the schedule, particularly on days when the bus goes to Walmart, running almost 10 minutes late on occasion.

The UTD Express is never on time, sometimes whizzing past stops five minutes ahead of schedule, making the rounds like a crazed honeybee in a pollen dance. On multiple occasions, I’ve seen two buses moving together, because one of them covered its rounds way too soon, leaving the other one empty.

For a university that cares about sustainability enough to have a sustainability manager, this is a great way not to be fuel efficient.

Cris Aquino, Director for Parking and Transportation, said he wasn’t aware that this year’s schedule was any different from last year’s summer schedule, and the department has not yet offered an explanation for the discrepancy.

The question that remains unanswered is why the schedule was changed at all. We are still running three buses an hour with the summer schedule, which is better than before, but the purpose is defeated if none of the buses can keep time.

If we had to run three buses, we could have easily stuck to the spring schedule. Since the campus doesn’t have as many students, perhaps it would have been prudent to just have two buses running, using the downtime to maintain the remaining buses.

Hopefully, someone in Parking and Transportation is recording the demand data this summer to ensure that things run smoothly in the future.

Meanwhile, students can wait around in the sweltering Texas sun, hoping the bus will show up at a certain time, only to either see it zooming past a few minutes ahead of time or not show up until 10 minutes past the scheduled time.

There is only one tiny silver lining: There’s a GPS tracker for the 883 that will warn you that no Express is running and that it’s a waste to go to the stop because the next bus won’t be there for another 25 minutes.

Update: 07/11/2014

Parking and Transportation announced today that the summer schedule was no longer going to be in effect and all buses will now run on the full schedule.

Buses will depart from each of the four points — Berkner North, Berkner South, McCallum and the Bush Turnpike Station — every 20 minutes starting on the hour, at :20 and :40 on weekdays.

The weekend schedule will remain unchanged.