Published June 19, 2014
You’ve probably seen them zooming around campus by now, in flashes of bright blue. A new fleet of UB Stampede buses are here, and they sport some interesting new features.
Christopher Austin, assistant director of parking and transportation services, says that when UB recently reached the end of its seven-year contract cycle with bus operator First Transit, it saw an opportunity to refresh the fleet and switch to a more heavy-duty, transit-style bus.
“We move around 24,000 passengers a day during peak times of year, and some of the old buses were wearing out,” he says. The new buses are a tougher breed, designed to handle a heavier passenger load, much like the NFTA buses that visit UB’s three campuses.
Annual ridership also has continued to rise, increasing by about a third in 2010 to around 3 million riders since the bus service began in 2005. Last year, the Stampede served 3,760,000 passengers.
A combination of factors has led to the increase, Austin says. UB’s efforts to promote a car-free environment have spurred interest in transportation alternatives to driving to campus, as more students and some faculty and staff members take advantage of the NFTA Metro, Stampede, shuttle and park-and-ride options. High gas prices have helped, too.
“We are committed to transit alternatives, decreasing the number of single-occupancy vehicles on campus, increasing our ridership and being green,” says Maria Wallace, director of parking and transportation services.
After Wallace’s office conducted benchmarking studies, several new upgrades were chosen for the next-generation “Blue Birds.”
For one thing, they’re now running on a blend of standard petrodiesel and biodiesel—a nontoxic, alternative fuel made from vegetable oil that should help lower the fleet’s emissions.
Based on rider feedback, each bus comes equipped with front-end racks for three bikes (the last model held two), and starting next month, riders will be able to track the Stampede using the UB Mobile app or UB Mobile Web (click on “More” for Campus Transportation). The buses also offer wheelchair access, Austin says, expanding options for disabled riders beyond the existing paratransit shuttle.
Inside the 35-foot buses, Austin says, a low-floor design allows for faster and safer boarding. Each bus seats 35 and has room for 18-20 standing riders, with the familiar rows of seats along the sides, overhead bars for standing and forward-facing seats in back, behind the rear doors.
Transit advertising panels, which the previous models also offered, are available to UB departments and units to place targeted ads for campus transit riders.
The new fleet, which First Transit will continue to operate, also is getting a white-outlined UB Bull “wrap”—basically a giant decal—running along the sides of each vehicle.
“We liked the old swoosh of the old buses, but this was an opportunity to brand UB a little further,” Austin says, noting that Tracey Eastman, who heads marketing and communications for University Life and Services, helped orchestrate the UB Pride-inspired designs working with Wallace, Austin and Barbara Ricotta, associate vice president for student affairs.
Five Stampede buses are running on the summer schedule; during the school year, up to 22 will run daily between campuses, while another six will be on hand for special events and as backup.
For more information about placing transit ads, call Parking and Transportation at 645-3943.