UT students struggle to get to campus as CapMetro app and labor shortage cause bus delays

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Some UT students who live in Riverside were unable to get to class this week due to delays with the Capital Metro shuttle.

While many UT students live on West Campus and can walk to class, Riverside offers an escape from the rising cost of living for many low-income students, who are often people of color. . But in return, these students must find a way to get to campus, and many rely on the free shuttle.

The service offers three routes to Riverside: 670, 671 and 672. On Tuesday, CapMetro’s app showed that 670 had been canceled all morning.

Dottie Watkins, CapMetro’s chief operating officer, said there was a glitch in the app and the 670 was still working, although buses arrived about once an hour instead of the usual 15-20 minutes.

She also pointed to ongoing labor shortages among the reasons buses have been delayed as in-person classes resume this month. Watkins said CapMetro has raised wages to attract new employees and about 60 drivers are currently in training.

Mariah Sanchez, a student who lives in Riverside and relies on 670, posted about bus delays Monday. His messages turned into a movement of area students demanding greater fairness from UT and CapMetro. The delays caused Sanchez a great deal of anxiety and made it difficult to plan his days on campus.

“If we miss the bus, we get penalized and our grades suffer,” she said. “And that’s just discrimination because it’s not up to us, we don’t make those conscious decisions. We’re impacted by the decisions of the university, the city, and it’s expected that we carried this burden.

Sanchez said students are asking for leniency from professors with mandatory attendance, for professors to tape classes, and for UT to renegotiate with CapMetro. She said the group was meeting this weekend to discuss their demands. Some of the members have planned to express their concerns to the College Student Commission today.

“I’m especially tired of low-income, often-of-color people in college who don’t have the same access to resources as our wealthier white peers,” Sanchez said. “I feel like there’s a complete lack of support for the people who live in Riverside.”

Watkins said she wasn’t sure the Riverside neighborhood was disproportionately affected compared to other neighborhoods in the city. She added that Tuesday’s errors reflected “really poor service” and that CapMetro was working to fix them and apologize to the passengers affected.

“We made a mistake and we know it impacted their lives,” Watkins said. “We know we have to do better, and we have already taken steps to ensure we do better in the future.”

In a written response, UT pointed to a January 11 announcement from Executive Vice President and Vice President Sharon Wood who asked professors to provide “flexible accommodations” for students when classes resume. Eliska Padilla, issues and communications manager, said the university was communicating with CapMetro about the delays and that UT understood the “impact” the delays were having on student travel.

While the student coalition is pushing for more reliable transportation, they don’t want it to end there. The group set up tables on campus this week to talk with Riverside residents and gather data on different issues affecting them.

“Many of the people in our survey said they felt isolated from student life,” Sanchez said. “I just hope this movement brings people together and we can plead together for a long time.”

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