By Brandon Addeo | Asst. News Editor
For many students living on the South Side, the South Side Shuttle bus is a welcome form of transportation between Duquesne and home. However, some students have voiced complaints about the service, claiming the shuttle arrives late and at least one driver is making personal stops while students are on the bus.
The shuttle costs students $125 per semester and will increase to $200 per semester starting in the fall. It runs every 15-20 minutes between nine stops in the South Side and Uptown, according to the Duquesne Parking and Card Services website, although the bus’s usual route is currently disrupted by construction on the Birmingham Bridge.
Jessica Hippler, a senior physical therapy major at Duquesne, lives in the South Side and uses the shuttle service. Hippler said she saw the afternoon shuttle driver make unexpected stops after picking up students on Forbes Avenue on five occasions.
“I’ve been on [the shuttle] a few times where he’ll drive in front of the Union and just sit there for 10 to 15 minutes,” she said.
Hippler also said the driver sometimes stops at the Giant Eagle in the South Side during the shuttle’s route.
Duquesne Director of Auxiliary Services Scott Richards said they do allow drivers to make rest stops.
“The shuttle drivers are permitted to stop and use the restroom at the Giant Eagle on the South Side,” Scott Richards said. “We’re currently evaluating for another suitable location.”
Bridget Wheeler, senior physical therapy major and Hippler’s roommate, has observed drivers taking lengthy breaks while students sat and waited.
“I get that [the driver needs] to use the bathroom, but 15 to 20 minutes is excessive,” she said.
Wheeler added that the app which tracks the shuttle, DoubleMap, is “not reliable.”
“I don’t know if it’s up to the drivers to turn it on [but] a lot of times the shuttle doesn’t appear on the app,” she said.
Hippler said the app should send out notifications when the bus will be late.
“If [the app is] not working and you’re standing out there, how do you know if [the shuttle] is coming or not?” she said.
Scott Richards said the construction has caused delays for the shuttle this year.
Hippler and Wheeler said, though they wanted to, they did not report their concerns because they did not know “who was in charge” of the shuttle.
“It’s very frustrating,” Wheeler explained.
Scott Richards said Parking Service works with the Pittsburgh Transportation Group in hiring and evaluating drivers for the shuttle.
He said Pittsburgh Transportation group has several methods of observing drivers, such as ride-alongs, having the driver stop at designated checkpoints and following the bus in another vehicle.
“These observations are performed to ensure that the drivers are efficient and customer service oriented, and that they adhere to the schedules,” Scott Richards said. “It also provides information about why delays may occur on routes.”
Senior economics major Lauren Pfendt said once when she was riding home on the shuttle, the driver pulled over to the side of the road and took a nap right before her stop.
She said she went up to the driver and woke him and, after he apologized and offered to drive her to her stop, she decided to get off the shuttle and take the short walk home.
Nevertheless, Pfendt doesn’t hold a grudge.
“The bus drivers are super friendly, they’re really good people,” she said. “[The driver] always asks how you’re doing.”
Michael Richards, a senior journalism major, said while not perfect, that he still prefers taking the shuttle over using his car — which he did in previous years.
“I think it’s a good option for commuters,” Richards said. “There’s the inconvenience of waiting around for the bus, but then again, you’re not using your own gas.”