Some students at Seminole campus are facing a surprising and unexpected obstacle to getting an education – the bus. In recent semesters, PSTA has had to cut routes and now buses only arrive on campus in the morning before 8:45 am and after 1:15 pm. Buses don’t run at all in the evening or on weekends. Students who rely on public transportation have had their class choices limited to what’s available during the day.
Diana Perez, freshman, pointed out, “Advantaged students are lucky enough to have cars or have family members or friends to pick them up and take them to school and work with them around their class schedules. The bus is not just about going green. It’s also about disadvantaged students having access to education and being able to enrich their lives.”
Isabel Gonzalez, a first year student at SPC said, “It’s very unfair about the availability of the bus. When I do ride the bus instead of biking, I’m afraid of getting there late or being marked absent.” Another student, Susan Yacano, added, “I received a ‘W’ for one computer class because I was unable to get to the campus on a Saturday.”
Lynne Wolf from the Career and Entrepreneurship Center at the Seminole Campus concurred, “I have students in my office regularly who have issues riding the bus because it stops here so infrequently. It has become a hardship for them because they are unable to take night classes or have to arrive on campus early in the morning for an afternoon class because of the lack of service. This has presented a real hardship on our students.”
Perez pointed out that not being able to ride the bus limits student employment as well. Unless bus riders are lucky enough to find a job on campus, they’re unable to easily come and go to a job even though there’s a mall at either end of the street. Diana Perez laughed and admitted, “Walking to the mall can be hazardous. Besides traffic, I actually got a warning one day for walking on the grass verge when I missed the bus.”
PSTA states that bus routes are determined according to demand. James Jones, a regular rider of the bus, agreed that the bus wasn’t always a popular choice. “It’s not the coolest or most convenient,” he said. He commented, “My choice is to ride my bike whenever possible. If I rode the bus more, I’d get less exercise. But when I can’t ride my bike, the buses screw me like they screw everybody else.” Jones also admits he has been hit by careless drivers.
The three other large institutions in the area – the Seminole Recreation Center, City Hall, and the Post Office – were surprised to hear that bus service to the area was limited. None had heard complaints, but share a concern about serving the public.
Bus segregation was changed in the ‘60s through the efforts of dedicated citizens and activists. The current bus route provides different opportunities to those with the means to acquire transportation and those who do not. What needs to change? Is it economics, is it public perception, or is it a need to redesign urban spaces? What would it take to actually make the change?