When students returned to campus earlier this January, they were met with new hours at the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop) and the Hieber Café, as well as a new Cruiser shuttle schedule. For the last several months the Student Government Association (SGA) has been working with both Sodexo and Birnie Bus Company in order to make the changes that the student body requested.
The discussion concerning the new Cruiser schedule began over the summer, when Birnie Bus Company contacted SGA President and senior Mike Schneider and SGA Vice President and senior Matt Muskin to clarify if Price Chopper should be added to the shuttle route. When Schneider and Muskin brought up the need to revamp the Cruiser schedule, the Birnie Bus representatives agreed and admitted that the schedule had not been altered in about five years. Muskin confirmed that the the schedules with which the students had been provided for the last two or three years were inaccurate.
“When people said the Cruiser was not on time, they were right, but no one knew what time the cruiser was supposed to run,” Muskin said. “There was not a correct schedule in existence.”
Once Price Chopper was added to the schedule, SGA gave Birnie Bus the times for all Colgate classes so that the company could make the shuttle run more efficiently. Colgate’s Director of Purchasing Art Punsoni organized all the meetings with Birnie Bus representatives, but, according to Muskin, “No one at Colgate was specifically in charge of dealing with the schedule and complaints and it seems that body might have become [SGA].”
Muskin thought that this may be the first time a group has physically sat down with Birnie Bus and discussed the changes they wanted to make. Birnie Bus then presented a new schedule to SGA in which the shuttle is scheduled to run on 40 minute cycles, rather than the old 30 minute route. Next, SGA showed the new plan to the Senate and focus groups on campus, spending roughly two and a half months working with the new times before bringing it to the student body.
“It’s not a perfect schedule because we were limited in what we could negotiate,” Muskin said.
The two projects that the SGA President and Vice President said they would like to see come to fruition next year involved extending the express Cruiser hours to later in the afternoon to make transportation easier for students with 1:20 and 2:45 classes and negotiating a stop on Broad Street, where hundreds of students live. This stop is only feasible if the Cruiser can find a driveway large enough in which to stop and turn around, as the shuttle would otherwise stop traffic, which Hamilton Police will not allow. Any attempts to increase the Cruiser’s running hours, however, will have to wait until the end of the year, when Colgate will renegotiate their contract.
The new schedule was applied on Monday, January 18, 2010, which Schneider and Muskin feel resulted from a miscommunication. They intended on circulating the schedule for a couple weeks before it was implemented, using new signs at stops, pamphlets and potentially color-coding shuttles. Muskin commented that the next step is “working out the kinks in the schedule,” and SGA has developed a site dedicated to student feedback about the new schedule (www.ColgateSGA.com/NewCruiser).
In addition to trying to reconfigure the Cruiser schedule, SGA went into discussion with Sodexo concerning the hours of both the Coop and Hieber Café. Director of Dining Services George Murray contacted SGA representative sophomore Andrew Pike last year to talk about economic difficulties that Sodexo was experiencing, specifically concerning hours of operation.
Murray presented sales data from the Coop which indicated that between the hours of 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., there was an average of fifteen or less students using the Coop, with the average sale at that time totaling less than ten dollars. Considering that it cost Sodexo roughly $60 per hour to keep the Coop open, in addition to the cost of food, “they were not even making half of what they needed to run a justifiable operation,” Pike said. Sodexo initially wanted to push back the Coop closing to 12:30 a.m., but SGA protested, and they compromised at 1:30 a.m.
SGA also took this exchange as an opportunity to expand the Hieber Café hours of operation, which according to a survey of 500 students, was greatly desired. They wanted to work toward a system that would be beneficial for students, using the Coop’s lost hour as grounds to allow the Café to open at noon on Sundays, and stay open until midnight on weekdays, as the Café operates at roughly half of the cost of the Coop. The midnight closing is expected to be implemented in the next few weeks, and the noon opening is already in effect.
“[The early closing of the Coop] was going to happen whether we liked it or not,” Pike said. “We did not take the decision to cut back hours at the Coop lightly.”
When asked about recent negative student responses to the Coop hour changes, Muskin said that if enough support is shown opposing the changes, then they will be reevaluated, but that there was not yet enough of this support upon which to act.
“The key thing about this process is student feedback,” Muskin said. He expects that a survey regarding the new Cruiser schedule will be circulated shortly.