Winter weather leaves buses crowded, students stranded

By Shannon Smith

Swarms of University students stood outside the Illini Orange Monday morning amidst snow flurries waiting for the 26 Pack bus. For many students, the winter weather has caused an overcrowding on some University bus routes.

Robert Dunn, freshman in engineering, said he waits outside the Illini Orange for the bus every morning during the winter months to escape the cold when walking to class.

“Back in early fall when we first got here, I used to walk every day,” Dunn said. “Since winter’s started, I pretty much always ride the bus.”

Dunn said he rides the bus twice a day: once in the morning on the way to his first class and once on the way home from his last class.

Even though Dunn said the bus provides a warm alternative, he was still bundled in a marshmallow jacket and knit hat. Dunn said students need to pack on the layers because they often have to wait for multiple buses, due to overcrowding from the cold.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“It’s ridiculous sometimes, especially out by the (Graduate) library,” Dunn said. “When it’s cold out, you can’t even get on the bus there.”

Mike Stubbe, Operations Planner for the Mass Transit District (MTD), said February is one of the two most popular months for students to ride the bus. Stubbe said the vast number of students trying to board the bus can make it difficult for MTD to accommodate everyone.

“When every single person comes out and has the expectation they want to get on the bus at the same time, we run out of capacity very quickly,” Stubbe said.

According to Stubbe, there are key times when the buses are very busy – before classes begin or immediately after they end. Stubbe said the MTD works out scheduling with the rest of the system to provide extra buses on campus at the busiest times.

“We use a lot of (buses) to get middle school and high school students to school,” Stubbe said. “We’ve identified some of the key loading areas and we schedule in some free (buses from the middle schools and high schools) coming into those areas. For example, we’ll put two extra buses on the Quad route when we do that.”

Stubbe said the regular 40-foot buses see upwards of 80 riders in the winter; the long 60-foot buses can scrunch 120 people at one time.

“It all depends how badly everyone wants to get to know everyone else,” Stubbe said.

Dunn said students who board the 26 Pack just outside the Illini Orange before an early morning class can expect to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, some without a seat or even a bar to hold onto.

Teresa Wu, graduate student, said the buses become packed like this in the winter because they are relatively warmer than the outdoors.

“I noticed it, especially when the weather gets really bad, like rain or snow,” Wu said. “People ride the bus instead of walking.”

Wu said that while the bus system is convenient for students, the overcrowding can cause delays, making it difficult to get to places on time.

“In the winter, the buses are always delayed by at least five minutes with all of the passengers,” Wu said.

Stubbe said he agreed the buses may run late because of overcrowding.

“That’s a phenomenon that we call ‘dwell time,'” Stubbe said. “The more time you spend sitting at a stop to board and let off passengers, the more it takes away from driving.”

Stubbe said students should go out five minutes early so they have an easier time getting on the bus. Some of the different campus routes stop at the same locations. Stubbe said students should look into these routes to optimize their travel time.

“Lots of folks on campus have access to lots of different routes,” Stubbe said. “Sometimes we have to direct folks to those alternatives in order to meet their needs. The closer you get to the interior of campus, the more difficult it becomes.”

Stubbe said the MTD is constantly thinking of ways to consolidate and upgrade the system to rid it of problems. However, he said the MTD can’t afford to purchase more buses at this time to meet demand.

Stubbe said that he cannot complain about the cold weather, though, because the problems it generates are not always negative.

“These are good problems to have,” Stubbe said. “We want people riding. Now we have conditions to iron out because of so many people riding.”