UR Transportation added service to the Orange Line for the second time in the semester this week, running buses all day and closing the previous five hour gap in service.
At the start of the semester, only five trips ran on weekday mornings — 10 after 4:30 p.m. — connecting students residing in downtown Rochester to campus. Now, 27 trips run from 7 a.m. until after midnight, giving Innovation Square residents a consistent connection to River Campus. The service increase comes as students have faced challenges using the bus to get from off-campus locations to UR.
The Orange Line covers Rochester’s southeast quadrant, swinging out towards the Park Ave. neighborhood before stopping downtown and then returning to campus. The route has been around for some time with a commuter focus, but starting Nov. 7 the afternoon gap in service was filled, making the Orange Line run all day.
Before all-day Orange Line service, students would often ride the Red Line to Eastman and then walk to Innovation Square. Transportation officially added an Orange Line stop at Innovation Square during the fall of 2021 after some UR students moved into the building.
The University began leasing floor space within Innovation Square for the 2022-23 academic year, filling two floors with roughly 50 students. Students on the UR floors are in “on-campus” residential life contracts despite living downtown. The housing contract guarantees transportation for students to move between Innovation and the River Campus.
However, the start of the fall 2022 semester saw the Orange Line overwhelmed, as five morning buses were not enough to match the demand of students heading to campus. The bus often filled beyond capacity, frequently leaving students behind downtown creating what one student called a “Hunger Games-esque situation.”
“I call it Hunger Games-esque because, I guess, I just get anxious about missing the bus or like it being full, and I don’t get on,” senior Daniel Semphere said in October after the first service increase. “As the bus is getting closer, you can clearly see a shift in people’s body language. They’re scanning the intersection to see if it’s turning in or or not. And then you see people significantly crowding towards the curb to get on the bus.”
Even after nearly doubling the morning bus schedule from five trips to nine, multiple people told the CT that students were still occasionally left behind at Innovation.
“They have the bigger buses that they send during the night when nobody uses them and they don’t send them in the mornings for the Orange Line, which is insane to me because there’s always consistently like 50 people waiting for the bus,” junior Mila Bologna told the CT in late October. “And then they’ll bring out the tiny little baby bus that they have, and it’ll be, like, standing room only. And then, you know, five people will be left without a way to get to campus, which I feel like if you have a mandatory class isn’t good for you.”
“It’s really frustrating that the 9:15 a.m. bus that drives by Erie Harbor is full every single day because a lot of students have 9:40 [a.m.] classes,” said Senior Andrei Blanton. “And so there’s always a crowd of students out there standing and waiting and it just drives by and it says full bus.,” senior Andrei Blanton said. “Why do they even have that stop listed if it literally never comes?”
Some students, including petition author junior Sebastian Xu — who created a change.org petition asking for increased morning shuttle capacity and increased service throughout the day — even occasionally Ubered to campus in order to go to class on time. Students at Erie Harbor, another popular off-campus residential area, were often left without bus service since buses filled before arriving at Erie Harbor.
Xu’s petition garnered over 200 signatures and was forwarded to Dean Runner and other administrators.
“Once learning of the issue, I communicated with Anne-Marie Algier (WCSA), Dan Watts (ResLife), Jim Chodak (Parking) and John Hain (Eastman) to discuss options,” Runner told the CT over email. “Ultimately, I reached out to David Figlio (Provost) and Joan Saab (Dean of the Faculty of AS&E) to get their support for adding a bus line. The funding will come from the College. Once we complete a review of all the routes, with improved information about ridership, we can do a better job of understanding how the costs might be distributed in the future.”
On Oct. 10, UR transportation launched a second morning shuttle on the Orange Line which operates between 7:30 a.m. and 10:45 p.m., giving the route increased morning capacity. The extra morning shuttle increases frequency on the Orange Line to 10 morning trips before 11:15 a.m., opposed to only five which ran at the start of the semester.
Moving forward, Runner said he hopes to further examine bus usage and see if any other changes should be made to UR’s shuttle system.
“I’d like to see us review all the routes, to better meet the needs of both the College students living off-campus and the Eastman and College students who need to travel
between campuses for classes and other activities,” Dean Runner said. “In the meantime, this additional bus line will hopefully relieve some congestion in the system.”
The Orange Line will now operate:
- Monday through Friday – nonstop from 7:30 a.m. until 12:45 a.m.
- Saturdays – 9 a.m. until 1:25 a.m.
- Sundays – 9 a.m. until 10:35 p.m.