Unpredictable Orbits

Ben Nguyen
Mercury Staff

Comet Cabs’ timing inconsistent, need overall improvements

Comet Cabs are supposed to be handy transit options on campus, but more often than not are a dice roll of whether or not you find a cab when you need it. While practical on occasion, Comet Cabs have lingering issues that reduce the usefulness of the service.

Comet Cabs are a service that provides a ride in a golf cart from the Activity Center to six stops at various locations on and near campus. I am an infrequent user of the Rutford South cab as a commuter, but have noticed a thing or two about the service in general.

The reason I say infrequent is not because I don’t want to use the cabs; I use them whenever I can.  Yet, more often than not, if a cab is going back to the Activity Center, it takes about the same time to walk to the Activity Center from the lots — so why bother taking the cab in the first place? This wouldn’t be true if the cabs have consistent cycle times. Information technology and systems junior and cab driver Nirvan Velmurugan said the cabs are supposed to wait at all stops for three to five minutes. However, not only are cabs obligated to stop for anyone that waves them down, they tend not to stick to the allotted stop times. I’ve seen cab drivers waiting for up to 10 minutes at the Activity Center with empty cabs.

Given all of this, the Comet Cab rider-to-be has a decision to make: walk for 10 minutes, or wait as long as 15 minutes depending on all the unknown factors? Most of the time, I’ll walk. Even when the cabs pass by people on the way to the same direction people are going, I haven’t seen anyone wave them down. Maybe they don’t know they can, or just can’t be bothered. If I can use the cab, I’ll obviously choose to. The travel time of the cabs ranges from about two to five minutes depending on the route, so it’s not like they aren’t useful when you can catch them.

It all comes down to catching a cab, which is easier said than done.  Both Velmurugan and marketing graduate and driver Jeong Su Han said there is a need for more drivers. This can occasionally lead to shifts being dropped, with a lack of drivers meaning that there is no one to pick up dropped shifts.

Velmurugan and Han both said that the carts need some maintenance on the GPS trackers, blinkers and other minor things. The GPS trackers specifically are used in tandem with the UTD mobile app, but the trackers are about two to three minutes behind, even when they work.

So what do we do? Ultimately, we should try to support the drivers and push for improvements to the service. What they have is nice, but flawed, and should be improved to be a more consistently useful service for UTD. More cabs running each route would be awesome, and along with that, more drivers. A set timetable similar to buses may be more useful as well. And besides the improvements that should be made by the service itself, students can improve in little ways as well. Velmurugan suggests closing the doors properly, as well as treating the drivers with respect. With a coordinated effort, we can make the Comet Cabs zoom at the speed of light.



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