For better or worse, the Golden Panther Express has been bustling this school year.
The bus, which shuttles students between the Modesto Maidique and Biscayne Bay campuses, has garnered much attention since Fall 2019, when FIU raised their transportation fee in exchange for “free” rides. That same semester, the GPE received an increase in ridership, according to Thomas Hartley, assistant vice president of FIU Parking, Sustainability & Transportation. The University also added additional back-up buses in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 to accommodate additional demand during peak hours.
But even with these efforts, the buses have never been more packed.
Students headed to and from BBC have found themselves standing in long lines to board the shuttle, only for some of them to be left behind once the seats inevitably fill up. For those who don’t have any other form of transportation, that means waiting for another half hour for the next bus to come—if it doesn’t arrive late, that is.
This whole ordeal leaves many students scrambling to get to class on time, while those lucky enough to get on the shuttle are sandwiched between their laptops, backpacks and fellow Panthers.
As demonstrated by the increase in shuttle users, students have clearly been appreciative of the free transportation, and the University has said they’ve tried to accommodate students better with the additional backup buses—even if we never see them. But the fact of the matter is, the shuttles have never been fuller, and FIU’s efforts aren’t doing enough.
It’s especially concerning when, even in the Spring, we’re still experiencing a heavy influx of students on the GPE. Normally, during the second half of the year, less students are enrolled in the University, alleviating the overflow buses experience throughout the Fall. We’ve yet to experience that this semester, indicating that the University has a few more bumps to iron out when it comes to accommodating the increase in riders since last year.
One solution would be to re-evaluate the shuttle schedules to determine when “peak hours” are, because students taking the 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and afternoon buses are experiencing this regularly without back-up transportation.
While we thank the University for its efforts to make transportation as accessible as possible, we’d appreciate it if they eliminated any extra obstacles it takes to get to class on time.
Until then, we’ll be waiting with our IDs in hand.
Photo retrieved from FIU Flickr.