System will reinforce ignored UAlbany bus policy

Expecting new technology, University at Albany transit this fall will enforce a long disregarded policy: requiring campus identification for shuttle access.

Parking & Mass Transit Services plans to have tap or swipe access systems on all university buses by next semester, a fix intended to improve data collection and safeguard the campus community. The department expects to release request-for-proposals by late April. 

Currently, university outsiders can ride campus transit despite a policy requiring passengers to have a valid UAlbany ID. 

The department has stepped back enforcement over time according to Jason Jones, director of PMTS.

He explained the laxity: those searching for IDs could make boarding disorderly; identification requests could make commuters uncomfortable; inconsistent carding may seem discriminatory.

“You don’t want to ID this person and then not ID the next person, right?” said Jones. “So you pretty much ID everybody or ID nobody.”

Only students, faculty and staff who have a valid UAlbany ID card may ride the bus.
Due to DOT busing regulations, children are not allowed to ride the bus.
Arrive at the bus stop at least 5-10 minutes before the scheduled bus departure time.
Stay away from the bus until it stops completely and the driver signals you to board.
When boarding the bus, carry your backpack and any other items in front of you.
Take available seats right away and remain seated facing forward.
Standees must remain behind the white safety line and always use the handrail.
No eating/drinking/smoking on the bus.
No use of radio/tape/CD players without the use of headphones.
Keep your body totally inside the bus while the bus is in motion.
Do not block the aisle with carry-on baggage, etc.
Wait until the bus completely stops before standing up.
Once the driver has committed to traffic the bus cannot stop.

Tyler A. McNeil / Minerva Daily

Campus transit has 450,000 boardings annually. Between figures, it’s uncertain how many non-UAlbany passengers enter the shuttle system.

Without verification, some passengers could pose a threat to the university community, Jones said. He didn’t provide an example.

“I guess you just don’t know,” said Jones. “Having somebody that’s unauthorized being on the bus, mixing with the campus population is just something that we don’t want.”

Carrie Albohn, a sophomore criminal justice major, wasn’t authorized under PMTS policy to travel on campus transportation while visiting her friends two years ago. She was a senior at Pleasantville High School, Westchester County.

Unfamiliar with Albany at the time, entering the bus unidentified helped her navigate around the city for free. But had it been a different non-student, Albohn said, it would’ve been intimidating for those on board.

“I feel like it’s 50/50 because if it’s some sketchy townie trying to get on it, it probably wouldn’t be comfortable for students,” she said.

Of those authorized, students (excluding Graduate Student Education Union members) fund the shuttle system through a transportation fee.

UAlbany has proposed a $7 bump for transportation, a change which would provide PMTS with about $200,000 next fiscal year. According to Kim Bessette, associate vice president of Financial Management & Budget, this will fund items such as CDTA contractual costs, bus replacements, and upgrades.

For Zach Norcross, a sophomore computer science student, because non-student members don’t pay for the service, they shouldn’t be allowed on campus transit. Under policy, routes are open to students, faculty, and staff.

“You shouldn’t be able to take out of it if you’re not putting into it,” he said.

While loosely enforced, passengers are sometimes carded. Alyssa Shanderson, a recent alumna, was once asked to show identification during her freshman year, heading to the uptown campus from Downtown Albany.

Sean Correia, now a member of the student parking advisory committee, was also carded years back. But this practice is questionably necessary, he said, because passengers likely attend UAlbany.

He learned about electronic access plans about during a committee meeting a month ago. While lauding additional security measures, Correia also considers the system has been safe as is.

“I’m in favor of pushing this forward, but I don’t think it’s worked badly thus far that we don’t ID,” he said.

Along with security, the new system — estimated between $50,000 to $70,000 — is intended to modernize data analysis.

Currently, drivers log ridership on clipboards, counting passengers per stop. PMTS crunches numbers at month’s end, transferring data to determine route usage.

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