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Chronquiry: Why aren’t there more buses more often?

Campus bus routes correspond with Perkins and Bostock Library hours



The wheels on the C1 go round and round, but some roads will remain untraveled for the foreseeable future. 

Due to high demand, Duke Parking & Transportation Services has made “operational changes” to support the C1 bus route, which runs between East and West Campus multiple times a day.

“We are using most available buses not assigned to other routes for the C1 route. This includes three high-occupancy articulated buses,” wrote Tyler Dewey, alternative transportation lead and associate transit planner for PTS, in a Sept. 8 email. 

Buses are running more frequently this semester compared to last semester, Dewey wrote, and daily ridership data indicates that capacity issues “significantly decreased” the week of Aug. 30 to Sept. 3. PTS also plans to “flex” bus drivers to expand C1 routes if needed. 

These changes have impacted other routes, including the C3, which used to run between East Campus and Science Drive roughly every 35 minutes.

“We have paused the C3 in order to provide more flexibility in assigning buses and drivers to our most heavily traveled routes,” Dewey wrote. “While it is more complex than simply shifting the C3 bus and drivers to the C1, with the number of students on campus reaching record levels, we continue to allocate resources to boost frequency where and when needed.”

As of Sept. 16, the campus routes listed on the PTS website are the C1, the LaSalle Loop (LL), the PR1 (Bassett-Research) and the Swift Avenue Shuttle. The CSW (East-Smith Warehouse-West) and the CSF (East-Swift), which were active in spring 2021, are absent, along with the C3.

In February 2020, Duke Vans operated from 5 p.m. to 6:45 a.m and the C1 ran until 2 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and until 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. As of Sept. 16, the C1 runs from 7:00 a.m. to 12:20 a.m. on weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on weekends. Duke Vans currently run from 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, excluding Saturdays that coincide with home football games. 

In response to a question about operational hours, Dewey wrote that campus bus routes correspond with Perkins and Bostock Library hours, and bus schedules are usually not adjusted during the academic year. Similarly, Duke Vans are “designed, in part, for students who have studied at other locations and are returning to their residences,” he wrote. No major schedule changes are anticipated at this time.

“For those students who are traveling after 2 a.m., the LiveSafe app provides resources for those who may be out late at night,” Dewey wrote. “Also, Duke Police has helpful personal safety tips on their website.”

Despite the shifts in drivers and vehicles, some students think greater availability is still necessary. Junior Abigail Phillips wrote in an email that shortened transit hours showed “utter disregard for student safety.” 

“The buses running only until midnight has put friends of mine (and me) in numerous difficult situations this year already,” Phillips wrote. “The limited hours on weekends are especially egregious. Our freshman year [2019-2020], the buses ran until [4 a.m.] and vans until [6 a.m.], and at least in my recollection, those services were frequently used.”

Phillips wrote that the reduced bus availability puts “an absurd amount of stress” on Duke Vans, making the system “almost unusable at times.” As a result of transportation challenges, some of her friends have walked from East to West Campus at night alone.

“It is pretty easy to see just by loitering at the East Campus bus stop at night that there are clearly enough students to run a bus past the current hours, and there is a need for Duke Vans to run much later into the night to support students’ needs,” Phillips wrote.

Additionally, she wrote that current availability “disadvantages students without the funds to regularly buy Ubers between campuses” and “encourages things like using the Spin scooters drunk.”

Susan Tyson, a parent of a junior that lives in Lancaster Commons, wrote in an email that she has heard from her son that limited shuttle availability is also a challenge. The Lancaster shuttle runs between the apartment complex and the Science Drive loop from 7:30 a.m. to 11:54 p.m. on weekdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekends as of Aug. 23.

“Late night classes, labs, practices, dining, athletics events or other social [events] are challenging to manage. Ubers are expensive and difficult to get during peak hours,” Tyson wrote. “Off campus assigned housing should have the same transportation available as East Campus for safety, convenience and finances!”

On the other hand, some are satisfied with availability. Will Herbst, Pratt ‘21 and research associate at Duke’s Katz lab, wrote in a message that he was “thrilled” to learn that a Duke bus stopped right in front of University Apartments every ten minutes.

Editor's note: This article is a product of our service we call Chronquiry. Multiple readers submitted questions about transit and The Chronicle sought out answers. If you have a question you would like answered about anything related to Duke, visit or submit on our homepage or sidebar.

Nadia Bey | Digital Strategy Director

Nadia Bey is a Trinity senior and digital strategy director for The Chronicle’s 118th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 117.


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