Originally published Sept. 21, 2011

Although officials at Grand Valley State University said the university has made appropriate accommodations to prevent bus overcrowding this year, there have still been complaints of overcrowding despite the significant decrease in ridership since last fall.

Conrad Venema, Rapid planning manager, said GVSU added another bus to its contract with the Rapid to prepare for a swell in ridership.

However, Pew Campus Operations recorded a 5.97-percent overall yearly decrease in bus riders when comparing the third week of 2011 to the third week of 2010. This decline disrupts an increasing trend from 2002 to 2010 that saw ridership grow by the thousands every year.

Even though the busses have fewer users, some students still feel that they are too crowded.

“At least for 30 percent of the time I have gone on the bus, I had to stand,” said senior Melissa Ostrowski, who said she was late for a clinic downtown once while waiting more than 35 minutes for a bus.

Ostrowski said even if her bus has sitting room, it is always crowded and sometimes too full to pick up more students at other stops.

Ostrowski is not alone. Sophomore Chris Benedict said he has had similar experiences.

“Sometimes it skips the later stops,” said Benedict, who rides the Route 37 bus from his apartment at 48 West to campus each day.

Benedict said his choice to ride the bus over biking or using his roommate’s car is a practical one. “Cars are expensive and bikes won’t work in the winter,” he said.

However, Route 37 is one that showed a significant decrease in riders since this time last fall with a decline in more than 3,400 users for the third week of school. Representatives from the Rapid said they did not know why buses remained so full despite the drop in ridership.

Jalyn Kamp of Pew Campus Operations reported a 7.63-percent decrease in riders for the first week of school, a 1.95-percent decrease for the second week and a 17.43-percent decrease for the third week.

While this decline is reflected more drastically on Routes 48 and 51, ridership numbers for the Campus Connector and Weekend Connector have increased since last fall.

So far, the Weekend Connector has seen about 4,000 more riders this year compared to last year. But even with that increase, ridership has not been as high as the university predicted it to be.

Factors contributing to the high estimation include an increase in the student body population, as well as a decrease in car drivers.

The number of on-campus parking permits remains fairly steady with only a 2 percent decrease over the last year, said Lisa Garringer, Parking Systems Coordinator for the Department of Public Safety. The department sold 10,400 parking permits this year, about 100 fewer than was issued last year.

Students looking to purchase a parking permit should contact the Department of Public Safety at 616-331-3255. For more information on bus routes and pick-up times, visit http://www.gvsu.edu/bus.


Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2011/09/buses_remain_crowded_despite_ridership_decrease