Off-campus students voice frustrations with shuttle route inconsistencies

Zoe Fisher
Advertising Editor
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Photographed by RaeAnne Genth
Junior Charlie Kelsey and senior Hunter Griffith wait for the red line shuttle at Hawthorn Creek shuttle stop.

Due to scheduling issues within UNC Asheville’s campus shuttle system, many students end up late to class due to shuttle delays. 
Thomas Morton, a senior at UNCA who rides the shuttles to and from his off-campus apartment everyday, said the shuttle service quality declined from previous years.
“It’s definitely not as good as it was last year. I guess maybe with COVID-19 starting up more students are taking it and more students have class on campus and whatnot. But it’s definitely been running later than I experienced last year,” he said.
According to the Parking and Transportation officials, UNCA shuttles have two routes scheduled to arrive at each stop in 12-minute increments. However, these arrival times do not reflect the fact that shuttles may also make extra stops at certain locations upon request.
“Yesterday, I waited for the shuttle for 20 minutes the other day and I watched the blue shuttle go to the Verge, but I watched the red shuttle go around with two different drivers. It has definitely been more unpredictable,” said Morton.
While those in charge of the shuttle have been constantly reevaluating routes and delays after public scrutiny, there’s more to be done in order to assure a more solid timeline for students to expect. 
Brianna Thrift, a UNCA senior, said she rides the shuttles three to four times a week. According to her, the shuttles are highly unreliable, even on a good day.
“I’ve had some issues. They have been a little bit unreliable just because I think they’ve been super busy and scheduled a whole lot, so I’ve been late to some of my classes because of it,” she said.
UNCA Senior, Nicholas Whitehead, said he rides the shuttle several times a week and often faces issues with them.
“They’re a bit unreliable in the timing at least. Sometimes they seem to disappear for half an hour and there seems to be no recourse on it. I know some colleges have GPS trackers in all of their shuttles so you can see the shuttle in it’s route, but not here,” he said.

Photographed by RaeAnne Genth
Junior Charlie Kelsey and senior Hunter Griffith board the shuttle 6 minutes past the expected arrival time.

Other North Carolina universities such as North Carolina State University and Appalachian State University have shuttle trackers on their websites and apps. Many UNCA students suggested the service implement something similar. The university already has apps such as Rocky Shield, UNCA Now and Kimmel Krazies, as well as the laundry tracking app.
“Wake Forest has GPS trackers in the shuttles themselves so that you can see where the shuttles are at any given time and that seems like it would make the whole system run a whole lot smoother,” Whitehead said.
“The campus’s website has a rough schedule of the times the shuttle is supposed to be at each stop and it’s basically useless,” Whitehead said.
What UNCA does have is a Twitter account for their transportation services, @UNCAVLtranspo. The account has 277 followers but shows very little engagement. The account has not posted since April 7 and has not posted about route detours since October 2020. The Twitter account is not listed anywhere on the shuttle service website, but is on the COVID-19 campus services and hours website. 
“I had no clue the shuttle service had a Twitter account,” said Hadassah Smolianaski, a UNCA senior who lives off-campus.
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Safety/Chief of Police Boyce said the school looked into creating a tracking service in the past few years and came close to implementing it. But, UNCA didn’t begin to work on creating this service due to personnel changes in the IT department.
“We’ve actually looked at that, and there’s been some personnel changes in the IT department. We were a couple of years ago pretty close to implementing that but that’s something we’re interested in,” Boyce said.
Boyce said he is only now hearing about the frequent shuttle delays students are experiencing.
“I haven’t received reports that there have been any significant delays,” Boyce said.
Boyce said he plans to begin investigating the issue.
“I’ll have my shuttle coordinator go out and just take a look at that so we are meeting those obligations to stop every 12 minutes,” he said. 
Due to students voicing their issues with the shuttle service, students should expect fewer issues in the near future.
“The goal of the shuttle service is to provide on-time service, to provide courteous professional transportation options for our students, so thank you for providing this feedback. It’s important to us and we will be addressing all these concerns and provide an on-time shuttle service that is comfortable, safe and accessible for all our students.” Boyce said.