It’s around noon on a Saturday at the traffic circle near Fairfield University’s Barone Campus Center and there is a crowd gathering. The thickening crowd, of course, is the queue of students waiting to board the bus provided by Fairfield that runs a circuit out of campus and into downtown Fairfield.
This bus, for almost all underclassmen, is the only means of getting into town; because of the volume of students needing the ride, the bus is often full and most aren’t able to board until its next round.
It is not a rare occurrence to hear that a group of students is stranded in town and have to wait for an extra hour. “The bus driver pulled up to us at the last stop on Black Rock with a full load, told us he had no room left, and that it was his last round so we had to walk back,” described Eric Stephen ‘14.
The bus situation was not always this bad. It wasn’t until September 17, 2010 that the university traded in the 39-seat traditional coach bus for the 22-seat hybrid shuttle that we see today.
“We use the bigger bus during the first couple of weeks of the semester for when the traffic is heaviest. Then we switch over to the smaller one when less people tend to need a ride,” Jim Fitzpatrick explained. The change in buses is mainly for budget reasons.
The smaller bus is more fuel-efficient because it runs on both standard petroleum based fuel and electricity stored in a battery, thus making it less expensive to run. “We did some number crunching last year and found that using the hybrid shuttle saved us about 20% to 30% of what we used to pay in total,” said Fitzpatrick.
While there is controversy concerning the size of the bus itself, many students are also fuming over the route and schedule being used. “The students here are missing out,” Sebastian Demoulin ’14, a Fairfield, CT native and a current student said. “Fairfield has a lot of great stores that most of the students don’t even know about because the bus doesn’t make enough stops around town,” said Demoulin.
Downtown Fairfield actually has many stores that students think they would have to go to a mall to find. Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective if there was less of a demand for the buses to run to area malls?
Another trend on campus is that students don’t know enough about the bus route and schedule. “I had to be at the train station at 10:00 one morning and I found out that the bus wasn’t running so I walked,” recalled Angela Schmidt-Chang ’14.
There is a large bus schedule posted on a wall inside the Barone Campus Center near Jazzman’s, but it doesn’t mention any stops being made at the train station. Next to the schedule is an accompanying map of the route, but none of the stops are marked. There is a lack of information that seems to be the underlying cause for all of the dissatisfaction with the current bus system.
Upperclassmen recall that sophomores used to be able to have cars on campus up until the fall of 2009. Now however, only juniors and seniors can have cars on campus, thus raising the need for an alternative mode of transportation. There also was a shuttle that moved around campus on a 20-minute cycle.
The use of this shuttle was also terminated for budget reasons. While these cuts to the bus system can and have been reasons for discontent, “I have not personally heard any complaints,” said Fitzpatrick. He also made it clear that the current bus and shuttle system was put into place with the help and input of the Fairfield University Student Association.