Of the 25,000 students attending UTRGV, 15,000 use the shuttle system. This spring, Parking and Transportation Services is adding more Vaquero Express Campus Connector trips.
At the end of the fall semester, a transportation survey was emailed to UTRGV affiliates and about 1,800 students and staff participated.
Rodney Gomez, UTRGV director of Parking and Transportation, said the biggest issue among the student body was the lack of transport across campuses between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. due to a shortage of staff. This would require students and staff to take the early morning route between either of the two campuses and return later in the afternoon.
“Since then, we’ve been able to hire several part-time drivers,” Gomez said. “We’ve actually got two students who
are in the process of getting their license. We’re training them [and] teaching them. Hopefully, they should be good to go in the next couple of weeks to provide additional support. So, now that we have that, we can provide
[four services] during that gap.”
UTRGV student Luis Flores will commute twice a week from Brownsville to Edinburg this semester. The Campus Connector will be his only means of transportation.
“Now that they will be adding more shuttles between the … gap, it will allow [me] to be a little more flexible on my schedule,” the political science major said. “I believe this will benefit all students, not only [for] those who will be commuting for class but also for student organization business, meeting with other faculty and staff and making [it] to special events that happen at only one campus.”
Another transportation issue during the fall semester was capacity. Each shuttle holds only 22 people. In order to solve the issue, Parking and Transportation added another bus to make the commute to and from the campuses. If capacity continues to be an issue, more buses will be added as needed, Gomez said.
Physics Department Chair Ad Interim Soma Mukherjee had three main points to address regarding the Vaquero Express Campus Connector system the first being the time gap. Her second point also had to do with the shuttle’s lack of capacity and space for students to effectively and efficiently work during the hour-and-a-half commute to the
“My third point would have to be security,” Mukherjee said. “I as well as other students and staff have noticed and some have sent complaints regarding the drivers. On occasion, some of the drivers would either be on their phone or driving with one hand, or perhaps the music’s too loud for the passengers to focus on other activities.”
About 6,000 students and staff use the campus connector service. There was a lot of confusion at the beginning of the fall semester because in the Rio Grande Valley public transportation isn’t normally an alternative, Gomez said.
“They’re used to getting in their car they don’t see it as an alternative,” he said. “And it’s not going to work for everybody. It’s not like a taxi service. It’s never going to be available for every single time for every single need. But we’re trying to be as convenient as possible. By the end of the semester, I think everybody pretty
much knew how it worked.”
If a university shuttle is unavailable for any reason, students have the option of taking two public transportation services such as Valley Metro and Metro Connect. Valley Metro offers free transportation between campuses as well as through the cities. The Metro Connect service charges a daily rate of $5 and $25 for a 30-day pass, which can be purchased at the McAllen and Brownsville bus stations as well as the UTRGV Parking offices on respective campuses.