More than 1,000 commuters used free university shuttles as stand-ins Monday for the Broad Street Line, traveling to and from Temple’s campuses on white or yellow school buses after SEPTA’s bus, trolley and subway lines halted because of a labor dispute at the transportation agency.
Following the 12:01 a.m. announcement Monday that more than 5,000 of SEPTA’s union laborers would strike because of a contract quarrel with agency management, seven university-sponsored shuttles began looping at 5 a.m. through the city to pick up anyone with a valid Owl Card. The shuttles will run daily from 5 a.m. to midnight as long as the strike continues, university officials said.
Four 70-passenger buses traveled Monday as far south as Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, ending at the Health Sciences Center, while three other shuttles looped from Main Campus to as far north as Cheltenham Avenue. All other shuttle services, including the buses running to Temple’s Ambler, Tyler and Center City campuses also were operational and will continue through the strike, with the TUCC and Ambler shuttles making stops on Broad Street before reaching Main Campus.
Reaction to the shuttle service by students and staff ranged from gushing praise for fast service to harsh criticism, with some riders saying bus drivers blew past stops, delaying their Halloween-day commutes for hours.
Faculty member Nick Jenkins took the shuttles three times Monday and said overall the service was good. Though he had to wait nearly 45 minutes for a shuttle during off-peak hours earlier in the day, Jenkins said that he will use the shuttles as his primary means of transportation if the strike continues.
“I might be breaking out my bike,” Jenkins said during his commute home. “But I doubt it.”
Constance Pollack, who works at Temple’s Health Sciences Center, traveled from Center City to the HSC campus around 9 a.m. and said shuttle service was excellent.
“I thought it was terrific,” Pollack said after her ride. “Temple really cares about its people and I give them credit for that.”University officials and bus drivers said shuttle service will continue during this strike, as it did during the last SEPTA lockout, in 1998, which ended after 40 days.
“As long as SEPTA is on strike this run will be continued,” bus driver Leon Spivey said Monday morning. The shuttle service will initially be paid for by Temple’s facilities budget, but then could be paid for by contingency plans built into the university’s budget, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Robert Buchholz said. The university could not estimate possible costs for providing shuttles.
Some riders Monday called wait times of more than 45 minutes “ridiculous” while others commented on how inconvenient waiting for shuttles would be during inclement weather. If the strike continues as long as the last one, it could stretch into December, meaning lower temperatures, bouts of rain and possibly snow.
As graduate student Nathan Ullom was ending his nearly two-hour commute from the School of Podiatry in Center City to his home near Olney Avenue, he said the unusually high temperatures made the sometimes slow shuttle service bearable.
But what if it rains?
“I’d be a lot more pissed off than I am right now,” Ullom said.
Buchholz said the university received only a handful of complaints Monday, with one coming from a handicap person who was not able to board a shuttle because it was not handicap accessible. More than half of the buses are accessible to those who are handicapped, Buchholz said. Other complaints were about wait times, Buchholz said, with some claiming they waited longer than an hour for a shuttle.
Despite a day full of delays, Ullom said he was thankful for the shuttle service. Without it, he said, he would either have to buy a car, scooter or walk to class.
“Basically, without this we’d be a lot worse off,” he said. “It’s not fun, but it would be worse.”
Brandon Lausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Chris Stover contributed to this article.