Professor proposes SF State shuttle revamp to shorten wait times
Long lines and extensive wait times are an irritating daily reality for passengers who use SF State’s free shuttle service.
To counteract common transit issues, SF State decision sciences professor Robert Saltzman has proposed implementing two-door, low-floor shuttles to maintain service as well as minimize passengers’ wait times as ridership is projected to continue to rise in the next few years. While campus planners have shown support for the proposal published in the online journal “Service Science” July 2012, an official replacement date for the new shuttles has not been decided, largely due to lack of funding.
“The challenge for campus planners is to find funding to purchase or lease and operate new shuttles,” Saltzman said. “In the current budget climate, it will probably take many years before all the shuttles are replaced, but there is an effort being made now to replace one of the older shuttles, which was recently taken out of service.”
The two-door and low-floor features of the new shuttles will decrease wait time because passengers will be able to load and unload simultaneously, according to Saltzman. He also mentioned that the low floor will create one step for passengers versus three steps on the current model.
Saltzman explained that the new shuttles would have a higher seating capacity ranging from 39 to 46 passengers as compared to the current capacity of approximately 30. According to University Transportation Committee co-chairs Wendy Bloom and Jason Porth, some techniques will include comparison of shuttle models, capacity, fuel type efficiency, and purchase and maintenance costs.
“Use of the shuttle as well as BART ridership increased between 2008 and 2011,” Bloom said. “Almost 25 percent of the campus population uses BART currently.”
Budgeting plays a role in the decision of implementing updated shuttle services. The parking and transportation department gets its funding from the parking program that provides campus parking facilities, according to SF State budget officer Franz Lozano. He also mentioned that the parking program is self-supporting and receives its revenues from parking fees and fines from students, faculty, staff and guests.
The cost of an updated shuttle would run more than $200,000, while the current models cost roughly $89,000, according to Reggie Parson, deputy chief of the University police department.
“At this time we don’t have a budget for these type of shuttles,” Parson said. “We are self-funded and we don’t get any money from the University.”
Campus planners are taking Saltzman’s proposal into consideration and will be analyzing the shuttle service themselves. Despite the lack of funding, Parson is on board with the shuttle services.
“(The shuttles) provide a more affordable way for the SF State community to get to campus,” Parson said. “The shuttle program has also been a way to improve the parking situation on campus and the surrounding areas.”
With lengthy lines pushing shuttle wait times anywhere from five to 30 minutes depending on the time of day, students have vocalized their annoyance.
Donna Nguyen, a sophomore, commutes from Castro Valley on BART. She finds the shuttle beneficial because it’s free and has fewer stops compared to Muni, but wants to see improvements.
“The shuttles are too small to accommodate all these people,” said Nguyen, a kinesiology major.