Nimisha Bangalore took the necessary precautions. She asked the driver when he would return, arrived at the stop beforehand and watched the bus approach on the DoubleMap bus tracking app. Then, she watched it pass her without stopping. It started raining, she had a busy Monday approaching, she was holding several bags and she had to pay $7.35 for an Uber.
Bangalore, a first year at the time, was left waiting on the side of the road, overwhelmed.
Three other students spoke about their negative experiences with the University of Richmond shuttle system, although for two of them, the expected shuttles never returned.
Claire Noppenberger, sophomore, said that the shuttle to Carytown had not returned for her on its next scheduled round in the fall of her first year. She assumed the driver was being trained, she said, because a woman on the shuttle was explaining routes to him. She called a friend with a car to pick her up, and when she returned to campus, the shuttle was leaving the transportation hub.
Senior Mariah Maki said she once had waited about two hours for the Mall Crawl shuttle to return her first year. The group of students waiting called the URPD non-emergency number and eventually found out that the driver was on his way but had gotten lost.
The University of Richmond transportation department, however, is unaware of these issues because students have not reported them to the department, said Natalia Green, the director of parking and transportation. Reports need to be timely because the cameras inside shuttles will record over their footage, she said.
Peyton McGovern, sophomore, said she was thankful for Richmond transportation but that there were a few things the system could improve on.
“One time, my roommate and I were at Willow Lawn, and we made sure to be at the shuttle on time, and as we’re walking towards it, it pulls away,” McGovern said. “And the hardest part about that was that I also assume that the shuttle saw me coming toward it, and the fact that it just left and it also was a minute before it was due to anyway.”
McGovern said that she and her roommate used Uber to get back to campus.
Because Richmond shuttles use GRTC stops, Green said, the buses cannot stop and wait at a stop.
Bill Coleman, the Groome Transportation representative for University of Richmond who oversees the shuttles and the drivers, said that drivers were instructed to stop at the bus stop, look for any students, and then pull off. Coleman said he would check the DoubleMap app while he was in the office and occasionally while he was at home to monitor the shuttles.
17 out of 30 participants from a survey posted in UR class Facebook groups said that they had had a shuttle never show at its designated time, and 11 said that they had had shuttles pass them without stopping. Ten respondents said that they had used Uber to return to campus, and four called a friend with a car. Only three students said they had reported the incident, and 11 said they did not know how to.
The ease of Uber makes it difficult for drivers to keep track of students, Green said, because sometimes students will take an Uber home instead of waiting for the shuttle, or some will show up at a bus stop after taking an Uber to the area earlier.
One survey respondent addressed this issue: “It would be nice if there was some way to request a shuttle stop from online, or just make sure shuttles always stop when/where they're supposed to, because I have Ubered/driven with friends off campus and then tried to catch a shuttle back and found that the shuttle never came because the driver hadn't dropped anybody off there that day.”
Coleman said that students should feel free to reach out to him to report incidents.
“We’re here to take care of everybody and get them where they’re going," he said. "I would certainly like to know if there’s any reason why we don’t."
Contact writer Katherine Schulte at firstname.lastname@example.org.