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Better off-campus transportation still an issue

Michelle Ma

Public Safety is considering buying a new shuttle after many student complaints. The road toward better transportation is bumpy due to budget restraints.

Mills students rely on the shuttle: transportation to classes in Berkeley, necessary trips to the Tang Center, or just a need to get off campus. A shuttle breakdown on Feb. 10 exposed those needs.

“It was unprofessional as well as annoying for those of us who had somewhere to be,” freshwoman Katie Northcott said.

Northcott needed the 11 a.m. shuttle to pick up her boyfriend in Rockridge who had already been waiting half an hour.
Students have overall complaints about the shuttle.

“I’ve been really aggravated and stressed to realize that the shuttle apparently comes too infrequently for the population it serves,” a Mills graduate student Rebecca Clark said.

Clark reported seeing bicyclists who put their bikes in the back only to lose their seats and people on crutches who sat on the floor in the back.

Clark also said the shuttle didn’t show up twice last semester and she ended up missing a class. “At the time, the shuttle director seemed very blas‚, mentioning that the shuttle was a courtesy service, not meant to be ones sole mode of transportation to campus,” Clark said.

Director of Public Safety Michael Lopez is looking into options for a new Mills shuttle. The main Mills shuttle cost the college $60,000 and has 20 capacity seating, but only seats 16 so that the back will be wheelchair accessible.

Lopez admits that the shuttle is often full.

“When students get back from Berkeley classes the shuttle is usually full, also at the end of the day. Saturdays are also particularly full, but it depends on what’s going on. If there’s a football game in Berkeley the shuttle is likely to be full,” Lopez said.

Restrictions enforced by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) prevent drivers from allowing students to sit on the floors or stand while the van is in motion. If it were a regular passenger bus, Mills could legally allow students to stand up, but the shuttle is classified as a school bus.

Violating this law would result in either a $500 fine or the CHP shutting down the shuttle, Lopez said.

The secondary Mills shuttle is currently out of commission due to transmission problems. When both shuttles are broken, Mills uses a wheelchair inaccessible van that fits 15 passengers. The secondary shuttle, Lopez said, has 100,000 miles on it and has seen better days.

When the shuttle is packed, student fervor increases. “One time I was on the bus people were elbowing each other to get on,” Lopez said.

Clark confirms these problems: “I feel stressed out every day – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – if I need to get home via the shuttle in the late afternoon. With no organization, the group waiting for the shuttle becomes a free-for-all,” Clark said.

Lopez may get something to keep students in line when entering the van; however, Lopez reported that financial issues make it difficult to fix other shuttle problems.

He said that a new shuttle, fitting 24 passengers for wheelchair accessibility, will cost the college $100,000.
“I’m looking for a trade-in [rather than a new shuttle] and a feasible price after the trade in. Unfortunately, good used [shuttles] are hard to come by,” Lopez said.

Before Mills purchased the main shuttle, they received a bid from AC Transit to contract out the shuttle service for $250,000 to $350,000 a year. This is why Mills opted for the $60,000 shuttle.

Lopez has no concrete plans yet and said he is considering options. “I have gotten student response and complaints about the [shuttle], and I encourage students to get involved with TAC,” Lopez said.

The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) of Mills meets to discuss campus transportation needs and currently has only one student member.

TAC meets every Friday at 2 p.m.. For more information, contact