UConn’s evolving main campus and the changing needs of its students have led to adopting new routes for the HuskyGo bus system, starting in the fall 2018 semester. The changes in the routes – the first since 2011 – are designed to be more efficient for students and decrease the number of transfers that have to be made.
“We have lot of new buildings and spurs on campus, which resulted in us taking a long, hard look at our bus routes,” says Charlie Grab, general manager of UConn’s transportation fleet. “We needed to improve our efficiency. As a result of the new routes, we have one-seat rides from housing and parking areas to the core of campus.”
The bus routes do not crisscross campus like some did in the past. There are seven new routes, with color coding. Three of the routes (Blue, Red, and Green) begin and end at either residential locations or parking lots and have middle stops in the core of campus. The Orange and Yellow lines circulate just through the core, while the Purple and Silver lines reach some of the far ends of campus.
The Blue, Red, Green, Purple, and Silver lines have peak operating hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with off-peak hours from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. to midnight. The Orange and Yellow lines will operate from 7 a.m. to midnight.
“There are a number of locations that now have direct service to the middle of campus that didn’t get serviced that way before,” says Grab. “Towers and I-lot are two examples of that. We also anticipated the opening of the Student Recreation Center in the fall of 2019 for these new routes.”
Grab says a number of factors went in to determining the new routes, with ridership data being key. The HuskyGo system provides 10,000 rides per day during the academic year, for a total of 1.4 million rides over an eight-month period.
“We had some routes that did not make sense,” says Grab. “We used to run a bus between the Towers and Hilltop dorms, there wasn’t a need for that. With all the changes on campus, we really had some crazy routes.”
He says ridership data shows that the primary use of the bus system is for students to get to class, whether from residence halls or commuter lots.
“We found out that the buses are being used primarily for transportation to class, when speed and efficiency is needed,” Grab says. “Students aren’t using the buses as much to visit their friends in other dorms or to go get something to eat.”
The two routes in the core of campus, the Orange and Yellow lines, give students an important option.
“It is going to be easy to get around the campus core on the bus,” says Grab, with the Orange line making the loop in eight minutes and the Yellow line in 15. “So students will be able to take a bus to the center of campus, and then transfer for a quick ride or have a short walk to their final destination.”
Mass transportation at UConn dates back to the 1920s, when the entire system was student-run. Now, there are 40 drivers under contract, supplemented by approximately 60 student drivers. Facilities & Transportation are also responsible for the maintenance of the bus fleet and the entire university fleet. A staff of eight people does maintenance for about 600 vehicles.
The buses are highly visible on campus, and serve as a great way to promote the University, with colorful graphics that highlight UConn’s strengths.
“We make sure freshmen learn about the buses right away, and use them for their whole time here, and we do give-aways and try to grow the system,” Grab says. “It really can be a lot of fun.”