The university is attempting to accommodate Texas State’s record-high enrollment with the addition of a Mill Street route and the purchase of new buses.
The tram system is expected to further expand and improve its fleet in the coming years as an effort to continue serving the influx of students. University enrollment increased by 4.7 percent, setting an all-time record of 34,113 students this semester. Paul Hamilton, Shuttle Services manager, said the tram system experienced similar ridership growth of approximately 10 percent.
Hamilton said the university has 46 total buses and during peak periods there are usually 38 buses on the road. He said four of the buses are university owned and the rest are operated by the current contractor, First Transit.
Hamilton said six of the buses have electronic light bars in the stairwells to accurately count the number of people boarding or disembarking the trams. He said the counter buses are deployed throughout the fleet to tally the total riders on each route over the course of a few weeks.
“We tried to determine how many physical people are using our service a day and that’s between 9,000 and 10,000 people,” Hamilton said.
Dan Cook, university bus driver, said there are three buses currently serving the new route designated for Mill Street. The Blanco River bus served the area last year.
Cook said he has a personal policy to never leave “runners” trying to make it onto the bus. He said once a bus leaves the curb area the driver is not permitted to open the bus doors. Safety is important for the bus driver and the passengers, Cook said.
“In situations like this, there’s a capacity of people and equipment in this area,” Cook said. “Statistically, with the amount of people, something or somebody is going to get hit and that scares me to death. I hope it’s never me, getting hit or hitting somebody.”
Hamilton said the student bus fee helps pay for new trams and maintenance along with opportunities to earn additional grant money every two or three years. He said two buses were purchased with the help of grants this fall.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) met Sept. 26 to discuss tram projects and funding allocations for the counties of Bastrop, Hays, Caldwell, Travis and Williamson. Hamilton said a project “high on the list for consideration” is one intended to fund six more buses for the university’s fleet.
Hamilton said the CAMPO policy board will make final determinations of grant awards in late October. Planning for new buses and equipment funding would depend on which fiscal year the money would be granted for.
“If they awarded the money for fiscal year 2014, we would not know until the fall of 2013 if we could even go out to bid,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said it usually takes anywhere from 90 to 120 days to go through the bid process of awarding grants to have the buses built. He said it takes an additional six to nine months to build the buses.
Collin Hall, communication design junior, said he suggests improvements on bus timings at stops.
“It seems like sometimes you’ll wait at a bus stop for like 30 or 40 minutes and none of them come and then two buses will show up back to back,” Hall said.
Hamilton said there will always be a limit to the number of people the tram system can serve. Other solutions such as adding more bike racks to the buses can help encourage alternative forms of transportation.