When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, Fairfield University, like many colleges and workplaces, switched most on-campus activities from in-person to online. Other resources, like the StagBus to the Westfield Trumbull Mall were put on hold.
Now, more than two years after the pandemic hit, the university’s transportation system is almost back to full operation, with the Post Road bus route departing every 30 minutes from the Barone Campus Center Traffic Circle and a new on-campus shuttle service that started operations on Sept. 26.
However, students feel the need to add an additional service that makes a stop at a shopping center.
Going to the Westfield Trumbull Mall is more of a necessity than a luxury for first-year student Lacey Noto, who explained how she spent approximately $40 on a roundtrip Uber she took with her friend to the mall.
A search on the Uber app confirmed that the ten-minute ride from Fairfield University to the Westfield Trumbull Mall ranges from $19 to $29 per way. Lyft, another mainstream transportation app, had slightly cheaper prices ranging from $16 to $23.
The situation is more difficult for those students who are on a tight budget.
“As a college student who doesn’t have a job, it’s very costly to order several Ubers back and forth between the mall and Fairfield,” said Louisa Guarasci ‘26. “So I think if there was a bus route [to the mall] on the Stag Bus it would definitely be more cost-efficient and I would save so much money.”
Another reason behind students’ support for the Trumbull Mall bus route is the lack of activities and clothing stores available to fulfill the buying needs of the Stag community.
Sophomore Samantha Flores brings a new perspective: the lack of activities and stores on Post Road.
“I think it would be a great idea to provide a bus to the Trumbull Mall. There’s only so many times that you can go into town or around Fairfield without getting bored of the same things,” said Flores, who is open to the idea of adding an additional bus to new places near Fairfield.
The concerns surrounding the different routes and consistency of the StagBus have been a leading issue brought to the Senate of the Fairfield University Student Association by its Speaker, Steven Burns ’24.
In a Sept. 14 Senate session, Burns discussed the idea of taking a Stag Bus to the mall by first recognizing that the route “was intact before COVID.” He also added that one of FUSA’s initiatives is to “be leaving COVID and trying to bring back what was there before.”
Senator Burns confirmed that the Senate has been “looking for a while now” on the issue of transportation, but that the focus remains on improving the bus live-tracking location.
“I think something we are working on now is improving the reliability of the GPS for the StagBus so that it doesn’t only arrive on time, but [that] the app is updated so that students […] will know exactly when it’s coming so they won’t be surprised if it’s earlier or later.”
Burns also described FUSA Senate as an “advocate” for students and said he is working to “bring as many functions back as possible as students see fit in a post-pandemic society.”
“Having the opportunity to go to the mall was here before the pandemic hit,” said Burns, who led last year’s Senate Committee working on the bus route. “And we think that students should have access to different kinds of stores not available in town.
Those major stores Burns talks about at the Westfield Trumbull Mall include, but are not limited to Target, Forever 21, H&M, JCPenney, Macy’s and Apple Store.
Sophomore Lauren Trymbulak agrees with Senator Burns’s point about the lack of diverse shopping options for students in Downtown Fairfield.
To her, the addition of a mall bus route would be something nice as “there aren’t many stores in town where the Stag Bus brings us to, so it would be nice to have transportation to the mall that my friends and I could easily use.”
Fairfield’s Vice President for Student Life, Karen Donoghue ‘03, weighed in on FUSA’s efforts to bring back the StagBus mall stop.
“As with all new proposals regarding the student experience, the Division of Student Life is open to speaking with student representatives leading the proposal and reviewing the supportive data,” said Donoghue, who oversees all aspects related to student engagement and recreation.
“At this time, there has not been a request made regarding a mall shuttle,” she highlighted.
The Mirror tried to contact Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services, Matthew Dinnan, to inquire about the logistical challenges and cost of the mall bus operation. He did not respond to our request in time for print.