Published November 15, 2017
Anyone who needs to be convinced of the value of UB’s transportation system should take a quick walk outside.
That time when the campus community craves the UB Stampede and shuttle services the most is nigh. As the weather takes its inevitable and predictable seasonal turn, the only sight more welcoming for car-less travelers than the big UB bull on the side of a UB Stampede might be the comforting white and the familiar billboard ads of the UB campus shuttles.
UB operates 28 “Stampede” buses, the larger, transit-style buses that connect UB’s North and South campuses. They feature what UB transportation officials hope is that immediately recognizable UB blue and bull that make them stand out when on the road. And not just in the campus community, but throughout the region, says Chris Austin director of parking and transportation services.
The campus shuttles are white, smaller than the Stampedes. They seat between 20 and 28, and shuttle passengers within the UB campus complexes and between the South and Downtown campuses.
“So there is the ‘intra’ aspect — the shuttles — and ‘inter’ aspect — the Stampede — of the UB buses,” Austin says.
Any member of the UB faculty staff or student body can take advantage of the UB transportation system, Austin adds. For the Stampede, riders swipe their UB Card as they board. The campus shuttles do not require the UB Card swipe, but riders might be asked to show it to the driver, he says.
The 28 Stampede buses move between 14,000 and 15,000 student passengers each weekday they run, Austin says. Stampedes run seven days a week, 24 hours a day, beginning each service day at 6 a.m. They operate throughout the calendar year, with the most runs during the spring and fall semesters. On holidays and during the winter and summer sessions, they follow a reduced schedule.
In peak times, a Stampede will visit a specific stop approximately every seven minutes. The off-peak schedule is between 10 and 30 minutes. The best way to check updated schedules is to dial up the parking and transportation website.
The UB fleet — which also includes 15 shuttles — travels about 1 million miles each year, Austin says, transporting more than 2.5 million passengers within those million miles.
This includes 60,000 service hours — times when passengers can board — each year. The fleet also provides more than 3,000 hours of special events transportation, such as getting student athletes to the airport, transporting faculty and staff to conferences throughout the Buffalo region, and getting students to off-campus venues.
“This helps to connect departments and student groups to the community,” Austin says.
The longest route along the UB transportation line would serve someone who wants to travel from downtown to the far edge of the North Campus: the Millard Fillmore Academic Center in the Ellicott Complex, Austin says. A passenger can board a UB Blue Line shuttle downtown — at UB’s Educational Opportunity Center, the Allen/Medical Campus Metro Station or the Clinical and Translational Research Center, for example — and ride to the South Campus, transfer to a Stampede bus and reach that distant point of MFAC within about an hour.
And of course, Austin points out, all designated UB transit points in between.
And what’s more, Austin says, UB buses make selected trips to the Galleria Mall, Wegmans and WalMart, providing access to shopping and entertainment to students and thereby decreasing their reliance on single-occupant-vehicle travel.
Austin can run down the coordinates of the UB Stampede and shuttle services like he drives them himself. The UB Stampede has three routes, he says. The All-Stops Route connects every UB Stampede stop: Goodyear Hall and the Main Circle on the South Campus, a stop at Grover Cleveland Highway and Maynard Drive in Amherst, and the North Campus stops at Service Center Road, Flint Loop, Governors, Lee Loop and the Ellicott Complex.
Then there’s the Yellow Line, an express service that connects the South Campus to the centrally located Flint Loop.
Finally, the Red Line connects the Ellicott Complex to the Student Union at Lee Loop.
“That line in particular serves 4,000 to 5,000 passengers in just the time frame of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday,” Austin says, noting it’s one of the busiest — if not the busiest —route in the system.
The UB shuttles operate on three lines. The Blue Line connects the Downtown Campus with the Main Street Campus. The North Campus Shuttle stops at points along the academic spine, as well as at some residence halls. And the Green Line travels between the park and ride lot adjacent to the Center for Tomorrow, Crofts Hall and Flint Loop.
For all specifics and details about bus routes, visit Parking and Transportation Services’ website.
UB’s transportation system has no shortage of loyal customers, according to Austin. But then there are the ones who feel something special. Austin recalls a UB staff member, Paul Bittar, who took his affinity for UB and the Stampede to another level.
“He is a big UB supporter and UB booster, and he bleeds blue,” Austin says. “He wanted the UB Stampede to be part of his special day, his wedding.” Bittar, who was director of football operations at the time, reserved a bus for his wedding party to travel to and from his reception at the Center for Tomorrow.
Bittar, who married Elizabeth Pantano in 2009 and now works in the UB athletics business office, says his wedding party was photographed at various UB locations, including UB Stadium, where the bridesmaids and groomsmen lined up opposite each other on the 50-yard-line, like offensive and defensive lines.
“Using a Stampede would bring that all together,” says Bittar. “Instead of getting a limo, we opted to use a Stampede. I was going with the flow of what my job was then.”
Austin remembers because he was at the wedding.
“It was quite a sight to see the bus drive off campus with the ‘Just Married’ sign in the back,” he says.
Bittar was not the only one whose love for UB’s transportation system exceeded normal boundaries.
During the spring 2008 semester, freshman Christopher Sova spotted Stephanie Bauer sitting inside the bus stop at Lee Loop after both had finished their classes.
“I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen,” Sova told the UB Reporter four years later. “When the bus arrived, I decided to sit next to her on the bus, and after about five minutes of working up the courage, I finally spoke to her.
“We couldn’t stop talking and smiling at each other on the whole bus ride back to South, and decided to get dinner together when we got off the bus,” Sova said. “We spent a lot of time together that week and by Saturday we were officially a couple.”
UB played such an important role in their romance that when Sova and Bauer decided to marry, the university was the natural spot to have the photos of their July 2012 wedding taken: Photos were taken on a Stampede bus parked in Lee Loop, as well as at Baird Point and at the bus stop where the couple met.
While each ride can’t give birth to lasting romance, UB Transportation does try to emphasize what Austin calls the “customer service approach.” Drivers see similar passengers each day, he says, and they connect with those passengers at a personal level.
“I know of examples where if a driver is out for a vacation or extended period, a student will ask, ‘Where is Mary?’ or ‘Where is Jessie?’” Austin says. “So they do make personal connections with the ‘Good mornings’ and ‘How was your day?’ and the daily service interactions with riders they see every day for 17 weeks of the semester.”
The UB Stampede and shuttles come with special features passengers of the past could only imagine.
Austin calls them “deliverables.” Riders have the ability to track where a bus is located and then determine when the bus will arrive.
“If you download the UB mobile app,” he says, “there is the ‘transport tab.’ Click on the transportation tracker, which gives you the ability to pull up the UB Stampede and the campus shuttles. Pick the route you’re looking for and see a Google map where that bus or shuttle is located.”
The tracker has been part of the UB transit system for six years, he says. “More and more with each passing year, we see students, faculty and staff passengers rely on it to plan when they go to the bus stop so they don’t have to wait outside or wait in the cold weather.”
Stampede buses also come with automated passenger-counting devices that allow UB transportation officials to identify trends and passenger counts that help them better manage the system.
“The data allows us to right-size service hours and make system adjustments, with the goal of ensuring the supply of buses we send out meets the demand.”
All Stampedes and shuttles are wheelchair accessible.
And to add to UB’s bicycle-friendly atmosphere, each UB Stampede has a bike rack on the front that accommodates three bikes.
The UB transportation system has received positive reviews from its clientele
“It’s definitely useful, especially being someone who doesn’t have a car,” says Brian Brown, a sophomore computer science major from Long Island. “Coming up here, it’s kind of hard to bring a car. So you’re kind of stranded once you’re here. So having the ability to go off campus really helps, even if it’s just on the weekends. That’s all you really need.”
Liz-Audrey Djomnang Kounatse, a biomedical engineering major, takes advantage of the Stampede’s service to Wegmans, the Galleria Mall and WalMart.
“I am glad that it exists,” she says. “If it wasn’t for the shuttle, I would be paying a lot of money for Uber or for just taking a cab. Or I would have to wait a long time to get on a regular bus.”
And if Austin is interested in that customer service approach, he’d be happy to know even those who are not on the bus have taken note. Consider the observations of Jeremy Torres, a senior philosophy major. Torres was driving past Southlake Village apartments in early November when the shuttle in front of him slowed down, then stopped traffic. His first instinct was to get annoyed. But then he took a closer look.
“There was a girl walking on the side of the road with no jacket, and it was cold that day,” Torres says. “From what I saw, the bus driver opened up the door and seemed to tell the girl to come on the bus. Then the girl smiled and walked into the bus. They were picking her up because it was cold, and she was walking toward the dorms.
“It was nice of the driver to do that,” he says. “And it made me feel like a jerk for wanting them to hurry.”
I'd like to add a different perspective to this article.
The last time I used the UB Stampede, I was at an unfamiliar location on campus and asked the driver as I boarded if it went to the Student Union (It didn't say so on the front of the bus). The driver glared at me angrily and said in a very rude way, "Just sit down."
I've had better treatment from NFTA city bus drivers, which is unexpected because they have to deal with a rougher clientele and work more dangerous routes.
I do agree that on the whole the UB bus system provides an essential service, but that experience soured it a bit for me.