Like many Stony Brook University students, SBU Transit and Suffolk County Transit, or SCT, are in the early and challenging stages of a new relationship.
The S60 and S69 routes from SCT started taking students to Port Jefferson and the Smith Haven Mall on Saturdays for free with presentation of a campus ID card on May 26. This is a change for returning students, who are used to a Saturday mall route that was provided by SBU Transit.
“Essentially we would have two buses between Stony Brook and Suffolk doing a very similar bus route on Saturdays,” Director of Sustainability & Transportation Operations James O’Connor said.
As part of the terms with SCT, the university will financially compensate SCT for every Stony Brook student who uses the Saturday shopping lines. With the success of the program, O’Connor said there could be an opportunity to extend the relationship.
“In a global sense, maybe students [could] commute on Suffolk Transit to campus in avoidance for using their own cars,” O’Connor said.
Challenges that O’Connor has come across have included advertising the change and informing students. Signs depicting the updated routes have been posted at bus stops, and there have been updates to the transportation website and the SBU Smart Transit application, O’Connor said.
O’Connor explained that the idea for the relationship came from a request by the students participating in the Transportation and Parking Student Advisory Committee nearly three years ago.
“Originally the students said, ‘Hey, why don’t you look at trying to allow us to get on Suffolk transportation using our ID cards?’” O’Connor said. “And ultimately it took us a long time to forge the relationship.”
Lei Hou, a graduate student in computer science, became involved in the shopping route discussion with the advisory committee while serving as the vice president for the Chapin Apartment Resident Association.
More Chapin residents take the shopping route than residents of other quads on campus, according to Hou. She wanted to see increased bus frequency and more options for students to go shopping.
However, Chapin residents have not been the only ones enjoying the change. Megan Pease, a freshman earth and space sciences major, appreciates the weekend shopping routes through SCT.
“I think it makes it a lot better than having students try to figure out their own way to places or just be trapped here until family or something,” Pease said.
Pease explained that she had used the SCT lines about two weeks ago to go to the Smith Haven Mall with friends and found it very convenient.
“The benefits of such an arrangement are that students receive the same frequency or increased frequency of service,” O’Connor said. SCT services run all year round, O’Connor explained, so students on campus during the winter and summer sessions may take advantage of the Saturday bus routes.
“There is also an opportunity for students to work later if they wanted to at the mall and get back to campus later,” O’Connor said. He also said that students can go shopping earlier or later and go to Port Jefferson via the Suffolk bus lines on Saturdays.
According to O’Connor, these changes also mean better sustainability. Students pay a transportation fee, which pays for drivers, buses, fuel and other transportation costs. O’Connor explained that the change will save almost 3,500 gallons of fuel per year that would come from the fee.
Clifton Bangaree, a senior biochemistry major, is not as excited about the changes to the weekend routes. Bangaree cited having better experiences with SBU Transit than SCT.
“It kind of sucks now to know that I have to wait for the Suffolk County bus. Like it’s not so reliable anymore,” Bangaree said. “And it would suck to be stranded at the mall or something cause it’s a long trip back. It’s an expensive cab ride back if you’re waiting on a bus.”
O’Connor is encouraging students to join the Transportation and Parking Student Advisory Committee for feedback about the changes.