Student complaints about campus transportation, namely the Stinger and Trolley systems, were met with complaints from the bus drivers earlier this month when First Transit drivers announced plans to unionize.
The complaints of the drivers include low pay, poor management and health concern, and to refocus attention on the changes that the office of Parking and Transportation attempted to make this fall.
Despite the addition of a new bus and the rerouting of both the Blue and Red Stinger routes, most students still find the wait for a bus unreasonably long, and the frequent stops on West campus while drivers change buses have given most students ample opportunity to criticize the efficiency of the current system.
Claims made by drivers explain many of these difficulties at least in part. Broken buses and rapid employee turnover force drivers into extra work and situations outside of their control, slowing down the general flow of student traffic. However, infrastructure is not the only issue placing a hindrance on campus busing. Drivers are partially responsible for the many students stranded on west campus in parked buses while drivers take breaks before starting a shift.
Tech should make it a priority to try to align the issues faced by both the drivers and the students. Well-paid, organized drivers who thoroughly understand both campus and their routes could help alleviate some of the congestion issues, working with Transportation to track the effectiveness of certain stops and routes. Unionized drivers could also be instructed in the use of the GPS tracking systems so that students can know when the buses will be arriving at their stops.
Furthermore, despite the fact that the Stinger drivers are not direct Tech employees, the Institute should strive to maintain its reputation of excellence in every aspect of campus. Any attempt by a group that is active on campus to improve their situation should be met by Tech with a mutual attempt to address their concerns while still maintaining the greatest benefit to the students.
Ultimately, the unionization of Stinger drivers can and must be used to improve the transportation issues on campus and to help both drivers and students. Tech should work with the drivers and First Transit, unionized or not, to negotiate more efficient working hours for the drivers. Transportation must keep in mind that students want very simple things when they think about the bus system; drivers who know where they are going and less time sitting on a bus next to the Couch building while class starts.