University starts shuttle service to combat parking problem on campus

A student shuttle drives its route on Colcord Drive. Monday, September 4, 2023. (Photo by Preston Waters)
A student shuttle drives its route on Colcord Drive. Monday, September 4, 2023. (Photo by Preston Waters)

Editor’s Note: The Accent published the first version of this article online on Aug. 23. The following version adds updates and additional perspectives to the story.

Southern Adventist University’s Transportation Services has begun a shuttle service for students this semester to alleviate the parking problem on campus, said Dennis Negrón, vice president for Student Development, in an interview with the Accent. 

“[University leaders] started talking about this shuttle way back in May,” Negrón said. “We knew that if enrollment increased any more than it was last year, then we’d have a parking problem on campus. … We are essentially encouraging students to keep their cars at Southern Village and at Spalding Cove. We’re saying, ‘We’re going to help you out by shuttling you to and fro.’”

On the shuttles’ first day of operation, Monday, Aug. 21, only 23 people took advantage of the service, said Negrón. However, he believes the number of passengers was low because the university did not publicize the service well.

Multiple students confirmed the latter sentiment in their responses to a poll on the Accent’s Instagram. 

One of them, senior psychology major Shayla Moguel-Coronel, wrote: “I think [the service is] great for the parking issues; it just needs to be advertised better.”

On Aug. 22, Negrón told the Accent that the shuttle service could be discontinued if the number of passengers remained as low as it was the first day. 

“The students need to show us that a shuttle is worth the effort and the expense,” he said. “It looks to me like Southern Village appreciates it, but we were thinking about Spalding Cove … and Laumere Court. If those are the groups that take advantage of it, then it’ll be something we keep.”

According to Stephanie Busby, office manager for Transportation Services, the number of students using the service has increased since it began, with about 35 to 40 students riding a shuttle each day as of Wednesday, Aug. 30. 

The service continues to see the most activity in Southern Village, with between 13 and 18 students being picked up there, between six and eight students being picked up in Spalding Cove and between one and two students being picked up in Laumere Court each day, Busby wrote in an email to the Accent. However, 340 students live in Southern Village, and 112 live in Spalding Cove, said Negrón. He was unsure how many students live in Laumere Court, but, according to a previous Accent article, the Laumere Court apartments can house 24 students between them.

In response to a question about possible changes being made to the service’s hours, Negrón wrote in an email to the Accent: “Administration is dedicated to the hours for, at minimum, the semester. It is possible that we will review these items at midterm.”

He added that any announcements regarding the service would be distributed through regular communication channels, including the Weekender, digital screens and email. 

Hours and Route

The shuttle service hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Fridays, according to Busby. These hours could change depending on demand, Negrón said. Busby wrote in an email to the Accent that a van and minibus, beginning at opposite ends of the shuttle route, run until 1 p.m. After that time, only one van runs the route. 

The shuttles stop at Spalding Cove, behind Brock Hall, the AdventHealth Hall parking lot, the Summerour Hall crosswalk, the Hickman Science Center parking lot, Southern Village and Laumere Court, according to Negrón and Busby. Negrón said the shuttle arrives at each designated stop every 10-15 minutes. There are shuttle signs at each stop.

Students may ask the shuttle drivers to stop at the University Health Center (UHC) as well, and the shuttle drivers have radios the UHC staff may call to request transport, Negrón said. 

Currently, three employees drive the shuttles, according to Busby. A certified bus driver drives the bus. Two other employees, one being Lauryn Daniels, a senior business-public relations major, drive the vans.

Driver’s Perspective

Daniels drives during the 1-5 p.m. shift Mondays through Thursdays. In an interview with the Accent, she explained that it takes her about 13 minutes to drive from one end of the route to the other, which means, during afternoons, students waiting at stops in the middle of the route will often see a shuttle in less than 10-15 minutes, but students at stops near the end of the route might have to wait longer. 

“I cannot believe it got to this point. The fact that there are so many parking spaces that are filled is insane,” Daniels said when asked about her thoughts on the shuttle service. “Like, you go to Hickman; you go to Thatcher South parking lot or in front of Bietz. … Everywhere is filled, even across Summerour. So, I definitely see the value in [the service] because you can save gas, you don’t have to worry about losing your parking space — all of that. It’s AC-filled,; like, if it’s hot … being inside is nice.”

 Daniels considers her story of finding and attaining the position proof of God working in her life. She was looking for a job that didn’t require her to give up her favorite activities or weekends and found the shuttle driver position on the student job board. Her class schedule allowed her to work the required hours. She is paid $15 an hour and enjoys the work. 

“Talk about God and provision. He provided me with a job,” Daniels said. “ … All my friends, when they found out I got the job, they would laugh and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, this job is so you.’ … God cares about the details, and He’s going to go exceedingly abundantly above all you could ask for.”

Both Negrón and Busby wrote that increased demand would determine if the service will ever look for more drivers. According to Busby, the pay rate would remain the same for student drivers.

Daniels advises students to flag her or the other drivers if they need the shuttle when they are not visibly planted at a designated stop.

Student Opinions

The majority of students’ responses to the Accent’s Instagram poll about the shuttle service were positive, although many pointed out ways the service could be improved.

“Loved it. The drivers are very friendly and want to get to know you,” Abby Knowles, senior education major, wrote. “ Overall, the shuttle service is clean. … However, it does tend to be late sometimes.” 

“It’s fine. … I just wish there was a way for us as students to track where the shuttle is at so we can plan around how to use it,” wrote Victoria Avila, senior math education major. 

Brett Klasing, junior clinical psychology major, wrote, “I think it’s great! I’m just used to walking through campus so I do that most of the time. It’s still relatively new, so it might take some time (even years) for it to catch on.”

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