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Changes coming to PNW’s shuttle system

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PNW’s inter-campus shuttle system between the Hammond and Westville campuses will use 24-passenger buses this fall semester instead of the 40-passenger buses used last year.

Brian Miller, director of public safety, manages the university’s transportation. He said the new buses are expected to be ready by Aug. 21, the first day of fall classes.

Miller said the smaller buses were included in the original contract between PNW and US Coachways. However, November 2016, when the shuttle system began, the 24-passenger buses were not available. Instead, US Coachways substituted them with the 40-passenger buses.

Temporary use of larger buses had not been specified in the contract or discussed at that time.

“[The larger buses] were implemented in a last-minute change by the bus company,” Miller said.

Even then, the university administrators expected the smaller buses to be available in January, but they were not ready until much later in the spring semester. The university officials decided to keep the larger buses until the service restarted in August.

The temporary substitution came at no extra cost, but larger buses normally cost more, Miller said. Therefore, the university is making the switch now.

To gauge satisfaction with the service, the university surveyed students, faculty and staff.

“The campus members liked the large buses. They were very comfortable,” Miller said.

Miller said the smaller buses have already been on campus and have been inspected by the university officials.

The shuttle service has carried 5,409 passengers, although the university does not keep track of how many are returning users. However, Miller said he knows many people regularly used the service.

The majority of survey respondents wanted PNW to provide bus service at an earlier time than 8:15 a.m., the earliest time offered last year. After reviewing the schedule, administrators scheduled the earliest time for 7:15 a.m. for the coming semester.

The most commonly used times last year were 10:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., whereas the least used was 6:15 p.m. For the coming semester, the 6:15 p.m. time will be discontinued.

Eric Giboyeaux, MBA student, said his experience on the larger buses was great.

“I love it. It’s comfortable, free and dependable,” he said.

He expressed concern that the change in size would affect the experience.

“Some of the best parts of the shuttle [were] the footrests, reclinable seats and outlets. Without that, it’s still a great service, but it isn’t as amazing,” he said.

Miller confirmed the smaller buses have reclining seats and Wi-Fi, but he said he was not sure about footrests and outlets.

The bus schedule for the new academic year will cut the 6:15 p.m. bus and add a 7:15 a.m. bus instead due to demand.

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