University seeks student input for future shuttles to suit commuters

September 11, 2018

Alongside the first year of a Downtown Pittsburgh Playhouse comes changes for more than just Conservatory of Performing Arts students. Student shuttles from campus to Oakland have been pulled back from 15-minute-loops to pickups every half-hour.

“The university, through the president, made the decision that at least for this academic year, we would keep the shuttles running to give us time to decide long-term what we would end up doing,” Dean of Student Life Michael Gieseke said.

Though the shuttles in Oakland are still running, more changes are slated for the future as the administration works on more effective ways to put them to use. Dean Gieseke and Amanda Anderson, Director of Student Life, have been working alongside the Information Technology Department (IT) on a better way to gather information from commuting students.

“One of the things we are working on is very simple-name, address, cell, personal email,” Gieseke said. “We are looking to put that up as a pop up on PointWeb at the beginning of every semester. From there, we’ll have much more accurate information of where our students are living.”

IT is still writing the code, but they hope to have the program up and running this spring.

“What we are going to do with that is once we are able to collect that information, we’ll be able to see those hotspot areas students are commuting from,” Anderson said.

According to the 2016-2017 Point Park Factbook, total enrollment equaled 4,093 last year, with a residential population of 1,039 students. That leaves 3,054 students, almost three-quarters of the university, commuting to class every day.

The university is also using this semester as a way to identify how many students are using the shuttles in Oakland and what times are the busiest according to Chris Hill, Vice President of Operations of the Physical Plant.

“We didn’t know how many people would be using this,” Hill said. “Just in this second week we’ve seen certain times in the morning and evening where there was more of a demand so we started back at 15 minute loops.”

Throughout this semester especially, the administration will be in contact with United Student Government (USG) and students directly on how the shuttles can best be utilized.

“We want to hear what the students are asking for,” Hill said. “But understand that the changes we are making are for everyone and not just individual students.”

USG president Kaylee Kearns has been in on conversations from the beginning. A commuter herself, Kearns ran on a platform of commuter relations and resources in the election last spring.

“I’ve been talking a lot with Amanda about what ways we could better gather information from commuting students because they aren’t always as eager to share,” Kearns said. “Right now we are just waiting to see what concerns will come our way. But I want to find a way to get them more involved on campus overall.”

Sara Cruz, a senior business management major, lives in South Oakland and takes shuttles to class daily.

“It’s definitely something I’m thankful to have because we weren’t sure we would this year,” Cruz said. “Though before, I did have more flexibility, whereas now, I have to plan more around it.”

Cruz said she has seen some reactions at the stops from disgruntled students.

“I saw one student expressing how frustrated he was in the first week with the longer wait time,” Cruz said. “It has gotten some attention the first week, but now we are getting adjusted.”

As far as reaching out to students for information, Cruz mentioned she thought it would be useful, as long as the university made it clear why they were doing it.

“I think, also, something like a quick email survey may be useful as well,” Cruz said.

If students are looking for alternatives to get downtown, Anderson shared that Commuter Resources in the Office of Student Life can answer questions about public transportation and Connect Cards.

She also said the lower level of the dance complex houses a bike rack, and they are currently looking for a second bike storage location for students who may want to peddle in.

Planning will be the most helpful aspect for students commuting from Oakland this semester, according to Anderson.

“Always have a backup plan,” Anderson said. “When I was commuting to school, I always made sure to figure out an alternative if my bus is late.”

For concerns with the shuttles and the shuttle schedules, students can contact the physical plant at 412-392-3490.

See this and more at The Globe

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