Late-night shuttle seeing few riders

Beth Sewell

For six years, Chris Hopkins drove 30 kids to school to the tune of “The Wheels On the Bus.” These days, he drives to a different tune.

The Big Red Shuttle driver now handles the first-ever late night bus implemented this semester by the Student Government Association.

At 10 p.m. on Saturday, Hopkins began his four-hour loop to search for students who needed a ride home after a night out in Bowling Green.

Hopkins’ night used to end at 10:30 after picking up students at Wal-Mart and taking them home. That was before SGA expanded the Shopping Shuttle to include a late-night run with additional stops, including the downtown square, College Street and the Gables.

Hopkins doesn’t mind the the extra work, but he said there are still some kinks to be worked out in the shuttle system before students will begin loading the bus in masses.

During Saturday’s late-night run, only about 10 students boarded the shuttle to get a ride. Hopkins said the rain Saturday cut down the number of usual riders.

“I just wish they’d change the route a little bit, take out some of the stops that aren’t needed and add some that I think are,” Hopkins said.

Paducah senior Beth Wise said the current run accommodates her, but in order to fully replace Provide-a-Ride, the bus needs to add more stops.

“I live right by the Gables so the bus is a great way for me to get home, but for my friends who don’t live around anywhere the bus stops, it’s not so great for them,” Wise said. “If they added more stops, maybe more people would ride.”

Shuttle bus supervisor Mary Hudson said the current stops made by the night shuttle are based on a survey given to students last semester that asked where the shuttle would be best utilized.

SGA is evaluating the current setup of the new shuttle system and gauging its success. Brandon Copeland, SGA vice president of Administration, said SGA’s student affairs committee is planning a course of action for improvements to the system.

“It needs some improvements to become a majorly effective system,” Copeland said. “We’re looking at increasing the times on Thursday nights as opposed to Saturday nights.”

Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and Campus Services, said changes will have to be made to the shuttle system to increase the number of students who use it.

A decision on what action, if any, will be taken will lie with SGA, he said.

“I think we’ll put it to the students and ask them what we should do,” Tice said. “I’ll look to SGA for answers.”

Hudson rides the buses occasionally to count how many students are riding and to see what stops aren’t necessary. She said if students aren’t using the bus, it’s a waste of time and money, as well as an added stress on the buses.

“This wasn’t the purpose of these buses when they were purchased. It puts too many miles on them and runs them too much,” Hudson said. “… We could get by with at least two more, and it would make things run a lot smoother.”

Western has ordered a new shuttle for the system, but Hudson and Hopkins still think the late-night run could be called into question if the numbers don’t increase.

Hopkins said he sees about 250 students per night on the shuttle. However, the majority of those riders are from the shopping shuttle, which runs from 6:05 to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from 6 to 9:45 p.m. on Thursdays.

“I think they need to do another survey to keep this going,” Hopkins said. “I’d hate to see it canceled for the people I do take home cause I know they got home alive.”

Hopkinsville sophomore David Erickson rode the late-night run for the first time Saturday night and said he thinks having the buses operate at night is a good idea.

He said he loaded the bus at the PFT stop and rode it to the top of the Hill on his way to a bar.

“If I didn’t have a car it would be a good way to go to Wal-Mart,” Erickson said. “I’ll probably ride it again now that I know where all it goes.”

The compliments of the bus and thank yous from students are what keep Hopkins content with his job.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people I transport are just as nice as can be and polite, but there’s always that 1 percent,” Hopkins said. “It’s not pretty, but I’d still rather deal with college students than grade school students. Although I did have a group on here the other night singing ‘The Wheels On the Bus’ so that brought back memories.”

Reach Beth Sewell at [email protected]