Should Parta Continue Operating Their Bus Route?
Written by Branden Townes on February 6, 2021
Illustration by Crystal White
Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA) has been put into question if they should continue operating their campus bus routes for students. The buses that used to help numerous students transport from one location to another now have vaguely enough students. The question rises with this problem should the campus bus routes still be open amid the ongoing pandemic?
Since the pandemic has started, PARTA has closed down three of their campus bus services; Reverse Loop (Route 53), Allerton Sports Complex (Route 55), and Stadium Night Loop (Route 59). The other bus routes remain open but with little volume compared to before the pandemic. Scott Hall, currently working with PARTA, claimed one of the bus routes used to be “packed like sardines” with now having roughly enough people on the bus.
The problem arose when the pandemic started to take full effect in early March 2020. Students and staff were mandated to have class fully online instead of in-person. This leads to having a campus full of students walking around or taking the bus to their next destination to a campus completely empty with nearly no students.
Kent State has now reopened the campus for students during Fall 2020-Spring 2021, some students took that opportunity to come back but majority of the students chose to stay home since most classes are still fully virtual. Students are on campus but haven’t taken the buses as much as before. Mitch Uttech, a campus driver for PARTA, said on a regular 4-hour shift before the pandemic he would get roughly around 60 people but now gets close to 25 people.
Anthony Mancini and Joe Pelesky, former PARTA drivers, have claimed due to the lack of students on campus they quit their positions. “I didn’t like working anymore with the lack of students on the buses. The job was easier, but time didn’t move as fast as it used to.” Mancini said.
When asked if the campus buses should continue to operate, Uttech brought up an interesting statement, “The campus buses should be open for foreign students on campus since they have no transportation coming from another country.”. Even though there isn’t a mass amount of students on campus, there are still students that need PARTA transportation to their destinations.
The drivers feel safe when operating their routes as well. PARTA has mandated their employees to wipe down their bus and station when entering their shift. The buses now have a shield to protect themselves from potential risk as well. Hall and Uttech expressed they didn’t feel safe at first until these precautions were placed. The students that come on the buses have been accommodating to the drivers as well with always wearing their masks and social distancing.
The former and current PARTA drivers all agreed the buses should continue to run for the opportunity of students that don’t have their own vehicles or want to visit the downtown campus. If we got rid of the campus buses, these students working for the PARTA would lose their jobs as well. The question seems to be answered from the student drivers, hopefully, more students will come back to campus so the buses can be packed like sardines again.