Cut the Shuttles Some Slack

Photography by Matias Ardila
Photography by Matias Ardila

Students who have been lucky enough to commute or use a car since their first year will never understand the trials and tribulations of the RIT bus system. Students who use the system are so quick to complain when the schedule is unreliable or the bus is late. What they do not understand, though, is everything that goes on behind the scenes. 

The Good and the Bad

To start, the fact that RIT provides a free shuttle system — that not only travels to places around campus but also off campus — is very convenient. The hours are very flexible, and the buses meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and are accessible to those with mobility issues. However, students sometimes run into some problems with the schedule being unreliable, which can lead to them being late for classes or meetings.

The Truth

It can be so easy to blame the bus drivers for not following the schedule, but often they are just as frustrated as the students! Ron Chabot has been a shuttle driver at RIT for over five years and has provided some insight into the situation. First, the shuttle drivers are contracted by a company called Transdev, and they are given a schedule set by RIT. This is less than ideal because the times given are usually not accurate. Especially since the schedule should be concrete, inconsistencies can cause significant conflict. 

“Three times since I’ve been here, they’ve messed the schedules up,” Chabot said. 

While he was able to fight for that change himself, there were other times when he needed the help of his passengers to make changes happen. For example, once an unnecessary stop was added to his Apex route.

“Over 100 people were being inconvenienced for a stop that no one was getting off of,” he explained. So, he asked the students to voice their concerns on Reddit and spread the word.

“The biggest and loudest voice is the passengers,” Chabot stated. “They did a great job of straightening everything out ”

Lastly, the company for which the shuttle drivers work was just bought out and new changes, such as equipment upgrades and a transition to alternative fuel, could positively impact the transit system.

The Friendships

It’s so easy to just get on the shuttle, mind your own business and forget that bus drivers are people too! For Chabot, the students he meets and the connections he makes are among the reasons he has done this for so many years. Back when Chabot drove an old, dysfunctional bus named Bessie, students even included it in a Minecraft version of RIT — with exhaust fumes coming out of it and everything.

From helping students move out to getting their help on new routes and campus updates, Chabot really connects with his passengers. He cares deeply about RIT students and the power they have for change. “People don’t realize how influential students are in getting change done.”