Despite Cal State Fullerton’s reputation as a suburban campus, the university offers few sustainable transportation options compared to services for individual drivers, such as parking structures and permits.
The Daily Titan found that CSUF lacks on-campus bus stops, bus service is infrequent, and schedules are unreliable. Outdated transit websites do not provide accurate bus route information, leaving low attendance for CSUF students using Orange County Transportation Authority, or OCTA, services.
Bus stops near campus also lack coatings to protect students from scattered weather conditions. On campus, CSUF does not provide maps or signs directing students to the nearest bus stops.
A map of bus routes on the CSUF Public Services and Transportation website is outdated. OCTA Route 24, which is shown on the map, has been discontinued, 213 has been rerouted west of campus, and Route 123 is missing.
Cassandra Reyes, a second-year graduate student, said she uses public transportation to get to school. Taking the bus has been cost-effective, she said, but it often doesn’t arrive on time, forcing her to use ride-hailing apps like Uber, which often cost more than $20, versus $2 for the bus. much more than she had expected.
“Sometimes it’s really late, and that will make me late for class or for work,” Reyes said. “I don’t have the option to get in my car and leave because I have to follow the bus schedule.”
CSUF and OCTA
CSUF started a university pass program, which offered students free bus passes from 2003 to 2014, while the university lost parking spaces due to the construction of the parking structure of Nutwood.
“The first two semesters I went to Cal State Fullerton, they gave you a free bus pass, but after that the bus pass went to $90,” said Daisy Magdalena, a former student of CSUF 2021.
In 2015, the free bus program was replaced by a discount program, now known as U-Pass, which can cost up to $240 per year. Officials said the university pays a significant sum for free passes.
“The passes were considered free, and if it’s free, it’s like no one is paying for it, but we are paying for it. We were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for that pass,” said Elissa Thomas, field operations and demand manager for parking and transportation services at CSUF.
Thomas said students sell these free bus passes on Craigslist or give them away.
“A lot of travel data shows it was not being used for its intended purpose – to support student travel to and from campus,” Thomas said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, CSUF averaged about 500 bus passengers per month, Thomas said. However, CSUF has lost half of its ridership during the pandemic, with only 256 U-Passes sold for the spring 2022 semester, representing less than 1% of the approximately 40,000 registered students.
Johnny Dunning Jr., OCTA’s chief operating officer, said system-wide bus ridership has improved this year after an increase in COVID-19 cases in late 2021.
“We’re responding pretty well,” Dunning said at an OCTA transit committee meeting in March.
Student transportation is a problem
According to the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit newsroom, accessible public transportation poses four barriers for students nationwide: cost, proximity to stops and stations, inconsistent bus schedules, and general unreliability.
Other students with unconventional schedules must plan carefully to get to class on time.
“Having to get up early for 8 a.m. classes, you’ll have to wake up at 5 or 5:30 a.m. just to get ready, get to the bus stop,” Magdalena said. “Sometimes when you have to go home, if the bus was too full, the bus driver will say, ‘OK, you have to wait for the next bus’, which will take another 30 minutes.”
The students said they did not know how and when they could use the transportation services.
“It was really difficult at first because the times are never really accurate when you get on the bus and it also sometimes arrives late,” said Camila Espinoza, a fourth-year public relations student. “It’s hard to find maps that match the school because they weren’t really accurate either, so I had to do my own research.”
Thomas said the problems with the campus website are due to a lack of staff.
“We lost about half of our staff during COVID. One of the staff we lost was our communications specialist who oversaw the website,” Thomas said.
It looks like parking services get priority for updates on the campus website.
Even with a staff shortage, the parking and transportation services website added its new ParkMobile feature which was temporarily introduced in 2020 as Park and Pay.
CSUF has also relaunched its off-site parking lot, which was temporarily unavailable due to COVID-19. Permits and information for off-site parking have also been updated on the website.
Other universities and community colleges in Cal State have options to help ease the fight for accessible transportation.
“I think my community college was better at thinking about it because through one of the programs I would get a free bus pass every month,” Reyes said. “But at Cal State Fullerton, I didn’t have that support.”
Neighboring CSUs have proven that the shuttle services, bus passes, and overall sustainable transportation made accessible to students are on average used daily and successfully aid the student body.
“This school year, we’ve sold 922 of our 150-day and 236 of our 30-day bus passes, and it appears that between the two, students have been making about 30,000 rides on Long Beach Transit since September,” said Jason Gallup, the sustainable transportation coordinator at Cal State Long Beach.
Long Beach State also offers free shuttle service for students and faculty with extended hours. Three different shuttles move students around the Long Beach campus and also to offsite housing.
“I think (CSUF) should have a much better transportation system for students, especially for students who have to get from place to place and don’t have their own car,” Espinoza said. , public relations specialist. “Because I feel like they mostly focus on parking, but they never really focus on public transportation.”
At Long Beach State, sustainable transportation options, including shuttle service, are funded by parking revenue, Gallup said.
What is done?
According to the CSUF Master Plan released in March 2020, any on-campus parking updates must include targeted improvements to other methods of getting to campus.
Another option offered by CSUF is Zipcars, a short-term car rental. There are a total of four Zipcars – two in College Park and two in on-campus accommodation.
The rate for Zipcars is $5.50 per hour or $55 per day, including gas and secondary insurance, and renters can travel up to 180 miles.
“When utilization hits 40%, they add another vehicle,” Thomas said. “So we’re at the point where, for fall 2022, we’re going to be asking them, ‘can we please have more vehicles.'”
Thomas said she also reached out to OCTA, specifically about Route 26, which connects CSUF to the Fullerton Transportation Center via Commonwealth Avenue.
“CSUF is only 2.8 miles from the Fullerton Transportation Hub, so Route 26 is supposed to make round trips on time,” Thomas said. “When that bus is late or the bus driver calls and doesn’t show up, it might mean 15 minutes for the next bus, but it means an hour for your next train.”
Devin Trejo, an undeclared freshman, said he had to take the Metrolink rail system every day to get to campus.
“This semester, some times have been a little off. Usually the bus we are waiting for is supposed to arrive at 3 p.m.,” Trejo said. “It happens after 10 or 11 minutes; it shouldn’t do that. He should arrive at 3 p.m.
Thomas said she contacted OCTA in the hope that they would coordinate her timings so that there was enough time between the arrival of a bus and the departure of the next train for travelers to reach the train station.
“It’s up to OCTA and Metrolink to make it work to provide some level of service,” Thomas said.
OCTA has made several improvements near campus, but none specific to CSUF.
In cities like Garden Grove, there are projects focused on sustainable transportation and successful alternatives such as the OC Streetcar project, which will connect Garden Grove to downtown Santa Ana, a $423 million project that is slated for completion. in 2024.
In 2010, the city of Fullerton and CSUF proposed a plan for a joint city that would have included a streetcar system connecting Nutwood and Chapman avenues, creating a college town for accessible public spaces. However, CSUF never moved forward with these plans.
“OCTA is in the process of updating its bus service plans and trying to better serve all of Orange County, including the student population, with more efficient route service. We encourage students to have their say in this process which will continue for much of this summer and fall through the Making Better Connections study,” said Eric Carpenter, a spokesperson for OCTA in an e-mail. e-mail to the Daily Titan.
Heather Eyre contributed to this story.