Temple shuttle struggles with capacity limits on weekends

FLIGHT gets 800 to 900 requests on an average weekend and has a 96 percent trip success rate.

FLIGHT, Temple University’s shuttle service, is available after 7 p.m. and travels between Cumberland Street and Girard and 5th Street and 20th. FLIGHT management plans to increase ride availability. | AMBER RITSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

FLIGHT, Temple University’s shuttle service, plans to implement new changes to its program in light of President Jason Wingard’s Nov. 30 announcement to the Temple community, which expressed an intent to increase FLIGHT’s availability.

FLIGHT’s “campus partners” will accept feedback from students to help them improve the program, wrote Mark Gottlieb, senior associate director of operations and logistics, in an email to The Temple News. 

“If consistent themes emerge from the survey results, we will begin implementing changes,” Gottlieb wrote. “This is a priority of our plans for increased safety and to help us improve this system.”

Gottlieb hopes FLIGHT will be able to start implementing changes in the beginning of the spring semester, he wrote.

During the fall semester, FLIGHT did not have enough seating capacity on their shuttle buses to keep up with the increased demand of students requesting the service for safety reasons and to avoid the cold, especially on Friday and Saturday nights — FLIGHT’s busiest nights of the week, said Richard Sutcliffe, the evening shift transportation area manager.  

Sutcliffe monitors the service’s dashboard nightly and often sees groups of students trying to get on the same shuttle bus that may not have enough seating capacity on the vehicle, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, he said. 

Jacqueline Farina, a junior legal studies major, uses FLIGHT to go from 17th Street and Cecil. B Moore Avenue to 17th Street and Diamond to go to her friends’ houses, she said.

“The only bad thing I would have to say about it is the wait times can sometimes be really long, where it would only take me like 10 minutes to walk somewhere instead, so I’ll just end up doing that,” Farina said.

FLIGHT management is discussing increasing the capacity on shuttle buses or adjusting service hours to reach a 100 percent success rate on all drives, Sutcliffe said. As of now, the service is at a 96 percent success rate, he added.

FLIGHT measures their success rate by determining how many students requested a ride that day and divides it by the number of completed rides, Sutcliffe said. 

There are 16 seats available on four of the six shuttles. The other two shuttle buses have 12 seats because they are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and need to accommodate spaces for wheelchairs, Sutcliffe said. 

FLIGHT receives 500 to 600 requests on an average weekday and 800 to 900 requests on an average weekend, Sutcliffe said.

Rachel McCormick, a senior fibers and material studies major, uses FLIGHT during the week when she is at the studio late at night and needs to get back to her apartment at 17th Street and French, she said.

McCormick, who appreciates how the drivers wait until she is safely inside her apartment, also tries to use FLIGHT on Friday and Saturday nights when she attends parties, but has run into some issues with long wait times, she said.

Sometimes, if a FLIGHT ride takes too long, McCormick and her friends will “brave the cold” and walk home, she said. 

During the week, McCormick’s wait times have been between 20 to 25 minutes, while on the weekends she has seen wait times up to 40 minutes, she added

FLIGHT requests decline after 1:30 a.m., so only some drivers continue operating until 3 a.m., Sutcliffe said. FLIGHT may adjust the shifts of their drivers, so that more are available until 3 a.m., he added.

Students must request a ride using the TapRide app and input their phone number. All requests must be submitted by 2:15 a.m., according to the app.

FLIGHT services are available after 7 p.m. during the Fall 2021 semester and can travel between Cumberland and Girard Streets and 5th and 20th Streets,  according to Campus Operations. 

Linh Nguyen, a freshman data science major, uses FLIGHT because it makes her feel safer and allows her to avoid the cold weather when she travels to 18th Street and Norris from the Jonhson and Hardwick dining hall about two to three times a week, she said. 

Nguyen sometimes experiences longer wait times and occasionally a driver will cancel her ride request but eventually another driver will show up, she said.

Driver cancellations are a result of capacity issues and students taking too long to board the FLIGHT or not showing up at all, Sutcliffe said.

“Maybe Friday and Saturday it is a capacity issue,” Sutcliffe said. “But at the same time, Fridays and Saturdays, no-shows are through the roof. We have sometimes 70, 80 no-shows that night so that’s a request that could have been completed.”

Campus Safety Services, previous to Wingard’s announcement, were considering a possible enhancement of FLIGHT, said Charles Leone, director of Campus Safety Services. 

Besides FLIGHT, Campus Safety Services offers a Walking Escort Program — a security bike officer escorting students to their destination — between 4 p.m. and 6 a.m. and can be accessed by calling 8-9255 from a campus phone or (215) 777-9255 from a cell phone, according to Campus Safety Services.

Sutcliffe encourages students to use FLIGHT’s information line at (215) 204-7377 if they need assistance. 

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