Spring unveils new crop of shuttles

Brand-new Hurry ‘Cane shuttles were unveiled Tuesday at the Palm Court Fountain. These six new shuttles will hold more than 30 passengers and feature easy accessibility for students using a wheelchair. They will also offer better seating and a flashy new look.

Among the guests at the first run of the new shuttles were President Donna E. Shalala and Alan J. Fish, vice president for business services.

Following an opening address, Shalala and Fish joined Sebastian in cutting the tape. Heather Lancin, director of orientation, who is temporarily in a wheelchair, performed a demonstration of the new shuttles’ ramp.

“I think it’s actually quite nice,” Lancin said. “You can get on [the shuttle] without anyone helping you, which is a nice feeling because after a while you don’t want anybody helping you.”

The new shuttles will run in addition to the current fleet of shuttles until the older ones are eventually replaced by newer shuttles. The shuttles will run the same routes, which include regular service throughout the University and the Metrorail station, as well as weekend outings to Coconut Grove, Crandon Park Beach and Sunset Place.

“Essentially the service will remain the same, but we’ll be able to carry many more passengers,” Chuck McConnell, director of parking and transportation services, said.

The total ridership at the end of 2005 was more than 855,000 passengers and with the new additions, the numbers are projected to significantly increase.

“Students will be much more comfortable. To me it’s a higher quality service,” Fish said in a press release. “The shuttles have become an integral part of the campus culture, and will continue to be so, as the University expands on-campus housing next fall with the opening of University Village.”

The added shuttles are run by American Coach, and the design, which is prominently orange and green and plastered with images of Sebastian, is the brainchild of David Johnson and Ana Gomez-Hung of the communications and marketing department.

The Hurry ‘Canes Shuttle System is free for University students, faculty, staff and visitors to ride. Students will not incur an increase in fees to pay for the new shuttles.

“Funding for shuttle operations comes out of the University Parking Permit fee. The shuttle operation is outsourced to [American Coach]. They were recently awarded our account via competitive bid,” Fish said. “The University does not pay for the costs of the shuttle bus directly, but does pay an hourly rate for the operation of the service which includes shuttle bus acquisition, labor, fuel, maintenance and other operation expenses.”

Student reactions to the new shuttles are generally positive.

“[They] looked very nice,” Stacee Karras, junior, said.

“I think they’re a step up. They look newer and cleaner,” Jeff Conrad, junior, said. “They’re easier to see, so hopefully it’ll get people to use [the service] more.”

“These buses are as school-spirited as our students,” Shalala said.

Jay Rooney can be contacted at j.rooney@umiami.edu.