Housing in Austin is expensive. Many students can’t afford to live in West Campus, where the rent median is at $1,295, according to Zumper. For this reason, many students decide to live in the Riverside area where rent is lower.
I live in Riverside and my rent includes parking, and utilities such as Wi-Fi/cable, trash, and furniture. But, of course, I have to give up the convenience of living within walking distance of campus.
However, with the wide gap in rent, I don’t have much of a choice. Like many other college students, I don’t have a car and rely on public transportation. Luckily, the UT Shuttle service is available for students in Riverside and other areas. UT Shuttles are free to students with their student IDs but are the same price as Metro Buses to anyone who isn’t eligible. The commute from my apartment to campus ranges from ~15 to ~30 minutes and depends on traffic.
However, this semester, the UT Shuttle experienced significantly lower bus frequencies. As a result, students, including myself, waited for upwards of an hour for a ride. As a result of the wait, there were a lot of passengers.
There were many times I felt unsafe in the full bus amidst a pandemic.
I, as well as other students, couldn’t avoid it, though. Many professors are enforcing attendance policies this semester. Capital Metro told students to take Metro buses, which typically increases the commute time.
The street that I live in houses many families and other non-students. I often see older people taking the UT Shuttle to the end of the street to cut down minutes from their walk to the Metro bus stop. People in this community, not just students, rely on these buses to provide accessibility.
Students speculated many reasons for the shuttle issues, including a shortage of bus drivers or that lack of UT funding, and a more recent rumor is that there was actually a shortage of buses. These rumors were spread by word-of-mouth, and some people called Capital Metro directly but almost always got the same answer: there’s a driver shortage.
In true Longhorn fashion, students are now working together to bring their grievances to attention.
So far, students have formed a coalition to talk about their shared experiences and plan a course of action.
As students move forward with the coalition, the group is calling for other students, especially those who live in West Campus, to advocate for expanded bus services and increase equity for off-campus students in Riverside.
Riverside Justice at UT Austin has an Instagram page (@riseriverside) where anyone can learn more about the issues Riverside students are trying to overcome.
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