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The next step in transportation Bike share program in the works

Clarissa Martinez/ The Rider Graphic
Clarissa Martinez/ The Rider Graphic

 

Beginning today, the Vaquero Campus Connector will resume its operations to accommodate students taking summer courses.

Parking and Transportation Services sent out a survey to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s students, faculty and staff regarding its performance during the spring semester and received an overall average of 4.12 out of 5 satisfaction rating, officials say.

A total of 92,869 riders used the shuttle services during the spring semester. In the fall, 65,056 people used the services. The university had a total of 157,925 use the shuttle services.

This past spring, transportation added another connector to travel between campuses as well as a circulator on the Brownsville campus, providing more convenience to the UTRGV community. The department also plans to start a bike share program in the fall.

Roberto Cantu, executive director of Auxiliary Business Services, said 92 percent of the 621 individuals who participated in the survey would recommend UTRGV’s transportation services to a friend.

“We’re pretty excited,” Cantu said. “It’s excellent. That percentage of satisfaction is up there with Amazon and Chick-Fil-A. We’re very happy for … our shuttle drivers. [They’re the] ones that have been here with us for previous years and stepped up to transform the transportation service that so quickly grew.”

He said transportation services hopes to learn more from larger universities that have adequate transportation to accommodate their communities such as Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin.

“We’re learning, we’re growing and we hope to improve our customer service and we hope to serve more people,” Cantu said. “There have been some challenges with this rapid growth, but we feel that we will meet those challenges.”

Shuttle drivers are undergoing training during the summer for CPR as well as procedures on how to respond to accidents. The training is mandatory for all six of the full-time drivers.

“Hopefully, we’ll never need to use those skills, but it’s important that they know what to do and that they not freeze or be overcome by fear … when there are situations that require proper response,” Cantu said.

UTRGV Parking and Transportation Services is working with the cities of Edinburg, Brownsville and Harlingen to incorporate a bike share program. This will allow students, faculty and staff to rent bikes on campus.

The program will be implemented through an app where an individual can create an account and decide to either pay a yearly fee, daily fee or per use. The cities will also have bike stations set up around the city for convenience to the community.

Cantu said transportation services is aiming to have the bike share program in effect by Fall 2016 and the purchasing office is in charge of the request for proposals.

“[This is] to relieve some of the traffic on campus. We want to be able to provide our students convenience,” Cantu said. “One of the overarching goals of UTRGV is to provide healthy options–[like] exercise. This will allow our students, faculty and staff to be able to have an easy option to do 30 minutes to an hour of exercise and not have to take a car everywhere you go or [hitch] a ride. We want to [contribute to] one of the overarching goals of the institution to create a healthier community.”

The Vaquero Express Shuttle will operate weekly from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with 10- to 15-minute frequencies on the Edinburg campus. On the Brownsville campus, the shuttle will operate from 7:30 a.m. to noon then again from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. with 15- to 20-minute frequencies.

As for the Vaquero Express Connector, the shuttles will make 10 trips throughout the day–the first one beginning at 6 a.m. for both campuses and the last one taking off from the Edinburg campus at 10:30 p.m. and midnight from the Brownsville campus without deviations.

However, if riders require to be dropped off at Harlingen, they must inform the driver. If they require to be picked up from Harlingen, riders must call Shuttle Service Supervisor Jaime Lopez at 572-5338 or 665-2738 two hours in advance from a scheduled departure time.

Public transportation is also available. Valley Metro provides a free ride with a valid UTRGV ID and Metro Connect has a $5 fee for a one-day pass or a $25 fee for a 30-day pass.

Brownsville and Edinburg also provide their own transportation services within the city–the Brownsville Metro is free with a valid UTRGV ID and the McAllen Metro charges a 50-cent fee with a valid UTRGV ID.

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