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Student voice concerns about pushing, overcrowding on weekend OCCT bus lines

Bus company to work with UPD to alleviate congestion on downtown commute

A night of drinking Downtown can pose a lot of risks, like having one too many drinks or getting into a fight at The Rat. For some on-campus students, however, the inconvenience and danger may start before the night even begins.

According to Jesse Vogl, the director of Off Campus College Transport (OCCT) who graduated from Binghamton University in 2013, the bus stop outside the Old University Union is most chaotic between 9:30 p.m. and midnight. Students like Adam Lipke, a freshman majoring in accounting, complained of the pushing and shoving that have become the norm, leaving many students frustrated and angry while they hurry to make it Downtown.

“Everyone is always pushing and yelling at each other,” Lipke said. “They’re all really drunk and in a hurry to get to the same place. It’s worse than the New York City subway during rush hour.”

Madeline Bay, deputy chief of University Police, said that the issues stem from lack of patience.

“Students just aren’t patient enough to wait their turn in line, or wait for a later bus. When alcohol use is added to this, the ability for that needed patience decreases,” Bay said.

OCCT bus drivers are encouraged to use their best judgment when allowing passengers to board the bus. If a person seems too intoxicated and could possibly pose a threat to the driver, monitor or other passengers, the driver is allowed to deny them service.

As of this year, metal barriers and event staff coordinators were added to the bus lines to encourage students to be more cooperative and diffuse the chaos. Additionally, students riding the bus after midnight are required to sit.

“Our officers have seen a dramatic decrease in incidents at the bus stops since these measure have been taken. And when officers are able to be at the bus stop in addition to the other staffing, problems further decrease,” Bay said.

Bay also suggested that increasing the number of buses available during busier hours could help transportation run more smoothly.

Downtown bus stops are outside of University Police jurisdiction, giving UPD little control over whether officers are present. On major occasions like Parade Day, UPD coordinates with the Binghamton police to ensure student safety. They also station officers at the University Downtown Center.

“Any time there are issues with crowd control, whether at a bus stop or not, police departments need to work with their community partners to determine whether or not a police presence or just staffing from the bus company might work to alleviate the problems,” Bay said.

Without any oversight Downtown, some students said they feel unsafe taking the buses back home after a night out.

“Coming back from being Downtown for a night out is a nightmare,” said Adrianna Maliga, a junior double-majoring in biochemistry and Spanish. “Fighting to get on a bus is really frustrating, and there’s always a chance some drunk guy is going to shove me out of the way and hurt me in the process.”

Bus drivers are paid $9 an hour. In order to encourage drivers to volunteer for late-night shifts, OCCT offers time-and-a-half payment.

“The shifts are absolutely worth it,” said Andres Gonzalez, head of public relations for OCCT and a senior double-majoring in history and political science. “This is a good amount of money for a four-hour shift. My first year driving I had a lot of fun driving late nights, all pukes aside.”

According to Vogl, OCCT is working with the Binghamton police to create safer loading practices at Downtown bus stops involving barricades and event staff coordinators, and he said that they hope to have a new system in place by fall 2014.

Bus drivers were asked by OCCT public relations not to comment on the situation.