By Inma Sumaita, For The Miami Student
To celebrate National Transportation Infrastructure Day yesterday, the Butler County Regional Transit Authority (BCRTA) provided a free demonstration of a new proposed route, R5, to run from Oxford to Colerain as an express commuter bus route.
The “R5 – Oxford & Colerain” was chosen for demonstration because BCRTA and Miami University data suggests there would be sufficient interest and ridership on a route of this kind. The BCRTA R5 bus departed at 7 a.m. from the Colerain Meijer for Oxford. The on campus stops included the Farmer School of Business, Benton Hall, Campus Avenue/Walnut Street, South Campus Garage and the Shriver Center.
A significant portion of Miami faculty, staff and some commuter students travel to Oxford via US-27 daily. Possible connections with Cincinnati Metro also make the potential for this route sustainable.
Metro connections could possibly include transfers to the Metro 17, 19 or 74X. Operating a route like this on an hourly schedule during weekdays could also have the potential to connect Miami and Oxford to the greater Cincinnati job market.
The BCRTA bus services are currently drastically underused and hence, underfunded. This demonstration was intended to encourage utility and funding by showing prospects that better funding would provide more flexibility and participation in the bus use.
Many students are disgruntled with the current BCRTA bus system, complaining of the lack of buses and the inconvenient bus schedule.
“It gets me where I need to go, but I always have to keep an extra half an hour in hand for these trips,” said Leslie Okpadile, a senior who lives off campus. “Given that I go from home to classes multiple times a day and back, these start to add up and are quite time consuming.”
Most people who live on campus prefer to walk and, thus, don’t consider the bus schedules when they plan out their classes.
First-year Elizabeth Ruffley said she never rides the bus.
“I tried to catch a ride to one of my afternoon classes, quite convinced that I had the time to spare, but the bus ended up being so late that I missed half my class,” she said. “It’s just not reliable to get you where you need to go. It’s almost granted that you have to walk Uptown because buses on the weekend are difficult to spot and usually not on time.”
For many students, these buses are their only way for getting groceries and other amenities.
“I’ve had an especially bad experience where I was trying to catch a bus to Walmart while it was raining,” said sophomore Andrea Quintanilla said. “I ran out in the rain to go stand at the stop and the bus didn’t stop for me. I ended up walking home, completely drenched.”
Regarding inefficiency, Matthew Dutkevicz, the chief operating officer of BCRTA, said they have not received many complaints this semester.
“Those complaints we do receive, we always evaluate and act on when possible,” he said. “All the changes that have been made since BCRTA began operating service in Oxford have been at the request of riders.”
Despite these complaints, the responses from Thursday morning’s demo day were positive. Many people responded enthusiastically to the demonstration, hopeful that it would become a solidified bus route.
In terms of changes to other existing bus routes, Dutkevicz said, for the most part, few changes are expected. However, BCRTA and Miami University are implementing changes into the way their system operates.
For instance, the partnership between Miami and BCRTA has enabled many developments in the bus system, including acquisition of $5 million in new buses this year, funded by BCRTA grants.
Another modification funded by BCRTA grants is the installation of a card validation system to read and validate Miami IDs. Come fall, students will have to swipe their IDs when they get on a bus. This new mechanism will protect students’ investment in the system by forcing non-students to pay the $2.00 fare, which is, by contract, credited back to the university.
In addition, BCRTA is developing real-time passenger info system. BCRTA is working with the mobile App Center at Miami to develop a bus-tracking app for IOS and Android. BCRTA has invested several thousand dollars in this project, which is also expected to be introduced in the fall.