With students back and filling Centre Area Transportation Authority buses, and just a few days into new service changes, a few riders have complaints.
One expressed frustration with overcrowding on an evening R bus (Waupelani Drive), while another didn’t know about a downtown stop change for the M route (Nittany Mall), making him late for work.
Only the M rider notified CATA of his complaint.
Despite the complaints, service manager Eric Bernier said the changes implemented Saturday are going smoothly so far.
“Despite the fact that we have 30- 40,000 riders on a typical weekday during the semester, most of whom are affected to some degree by the service changes, we received only one complaint about notification,” Bernier said. “Given the extent of the changes, I think the fact that we have only received one complaint so far regarding notification speaks fairly well to our notification efforts.”
That M rider is Neil Curtis, who rides the bus to work at the mall. He said he and other mall employees waited Saturday for the 8:45 a.m. bus to pick up at College Avenue and South Allen Street. When no bus arrived by 9:10 a.m., one man called CATA and told the group the route was now picking up at the stop on Beaver Avenue, next to Schlow Centre Region Library.
“So that was completely ridiculous,” Curtis said, noting his iPhone app didn’t yet reflect that change. “Sunday I got an update for the app.”
CATA Operations Director Sherry Snyder responded to Curtis, offering a list of times and places that CATA announced the fall service changes, which all took effect Saturday. Those included a February public hearing, CATA newsletters, the fall Ride Guide, a website announcement one week in advance, bus stop information changes three weeks in advance, and local media coverage.
Curtis said he doesn’t have time to attend meetings because of his work schedule and uses the app, so he doesn’t look at CATA’s website or Ride Guide. And he disputes the bus stop information changed in advance. He said he’s planning another letter to Snyder.
“Drivers should’ve been saying to riders a week in advance, ‘Hey, the routes are going to change,’ ” he said. “Especially on the M bus. That’s just simple. That’s good customer service.”
Jeremy Wright offered concerns about the R route, particularly the bus that stops at College Avenue and South Allen Street at 5:15 p.m. He’s caught that bus daily for about two years and said, even during the summer when service is reduced, it’s often standing-room only.
One day last week, the bus was so full that Wright was denied access, as were about one-third of the people waiting, he said. During the summer, buses come every 40 minutes.
“The driver of the R during the reduced schedule in the summer, every night I could tell she was frustrated, because every night she was having to force people to move, to cram as many people as she possibly could on the bus,” he said. “I’m just frustrated that, as the summer crept along, every evening it seemed to be more and more crowded.”
Now that the semester has started, that R bus arrives every 20 minutes.
Bernier said he didn’t know if CATA was addressing the bus arriving at that particular time, but said operations staff watches for overcrowding and other issues daily.
“Whenever we see a pattern of overcrowding, we address it to some degree,” he said. “There are so many subjective factors that play into this. That’s what makes it tough.”
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter