Shuttle Service Offers Free Transportation On, Off-Campus

Imogene Wofford, Staff Writer

Texas A&M University- Commerce has been developing and experimenting with the student shuttle services.

“The idea to have shuttle services came from piggy-backing on a few of the other universities in the Texas A&M University System,” Adam Norris, risk management coordinator, said.

“I took over the management of the shuttle services in September, before that it was under the dean of students and campus life,” Norris said.

“The dean of students and campus life funds the program, and the risk management department has more of an administrative role to monitor the shuttle services, and manage the operation of the program.”

“It’s still in the experimental stage so the number of students being supplied with the service is vague. West Texas A&M’s shuttle services around 100,000 students, and here we’re looking to service around 200,000 a year,” he said.

There are three shuttles that run during the day. The campus has 11 designated areas where the shuttles pick up and drop off.

Two of the vans split up the route and take a set of the stops, while the third van is the cleanup shuttle that drives the route from start to finish getting students that might have been missed by the other two.

“Right now it’s hard to keep on the route because it’s still developmental, so they just pick up students from wherever they are and take them wherever they need to go,” he said.

The shuttle services provide transportation for students to go wherever they need on campus, as well as off campus places like Wal-Mart, Brookshire’s, McDonald’s, Dollar Tree and the Lion’s Den.

One of the shuttles goes to Dallas, to the University Centers of Dallas, a university part of the A&M-Commerce system, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The shuttles start running at 7:30 a.m., and run till 8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. They run every 15 minutes on campus, and the students that are taken off campus, who need to be picked up are allocated 30-45 minutes to do their shopping.

There are nine shuttle drivers, which range from students, staff, faculty, to members of the community. The driver shifts are divided into part time positions, three drivers share a shuttle, and each driver has a four hour shift.

“It’s really simple to become a shuttle driver,” Norris said, “just be at least 21 and have a good driving background. You can be a driver; you just can’t have a record with speeding ticket after speeding ticket, a bunch of speeding tickets.

“One of my drivers used to drive trucks, he knows the highways pretty well, so he drives to the Dallas campus,” Norris said.

The shuttle services do not run on Thanksgiving, winter break, spring break or during any other campus closures. The service is for A&M-Commerce students, and they are “viewed as customers, so the shuttles don’t run if there are no customers to benefit from the service.

“Sometimes the vans are needed for other events, or to get checked out, so drivers are allowed to ride together to make sure they don’t lose time or pay,” he said.

The shuttle services offer special services, or accommodations, to certain groups, or individuals.

“There was a young lady involved with an incident, and is on crutches, so every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning there’s someone waiting at her dorm at 7:45 am to take her to class.

“We also have a handicapped student whose vision is impaired that we provide special accommodations for,” he said.

“I work as a full-time custodian at Smith Hall, and do this part time,” Victoria Straughan, a shuttle driver, said.

“I get the keys to the shuttle, I go to the van and check everything—my tires, oil, air, heat, windshield wipers, look for trash; then I follow my route and pick up students, take em where they need to go, and drop em off.

“Dinner time and Friday night football games are the busiest times. I finish up at 8:20, so that I have ten minutes to clean out the van and take anything left in the shuttle to the University Police Department.

“I also know certain areas will get busy, like at the field house, so I’ll make sure to be out there waiting for the athletes, trainers, and anyone who has a class over there.

“The other drivers and I, we’re very communicative to make sure we don’t run into each other, or play follow the leader, we use our cell phones hands free so that we can keep our hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

“At night sometimes we use our emergency lights because the students may not be able to, or have a difficult time, seeing us.

“I’m a people person so I like talking to everyone, being able to help, and I love the interaction and getting to know my riders.

“I love my job, it’s very enjoyable. The students are respectful, and it’s nice to be personally recognized instead of ‘hey you,’” she said.