Almost every cab company in the Binghamton area went on strike Saturday night, leaving many students without a ride back to campus.
Off Campus College Transport runs a late-night bus line on weekends called the Downtown Express, which serves as a shuttle for students who have spent the night in Downtown Binghamton. The pickup location, which used to be situated near the intersection of Hawley Street and Washington Street, was moved this past weekend to the intersection of Hawley Street and State Street.
Because the section of State Street between Hawley Street and Court Street is barricaded on weekend nights, the buses now line up directly in the intersection under the stoplight. Brian Favela, the BU executive director of transportation and parking services, said that this new location was safer for students waiting to get on the buses.
“The changes, still being evaluated, simply create a “loading cue” to provide a more orderly manner for the buses to be boarded,” Favela wrote in an email. “The new location is two bus lengths away from the previous location and is now more visible to the police officers working State street at these times.”
The taxi cabs, which comprise multiple independent companies, usually line up on the north side of Hawley Street between State Street and Washington Street on the weekends, and the new pickup location for the buses interferes with this area.
Colin Ryan, a sophomore majoring in geography, said that when he and his friends were leaving the bars on Saturday night there were many students trying to get back to campus, but the bus line was packed and many students were left without rides.
“All of the cab drivers were out there but they were outside of their cars, just standing around,” Ryan said. “We went up to them and asked if they could take a few people; they said they were on strike. We tried asking them more about it because we were confused and wanted to get home, but they were being unresponsive and not very helpful or anything.”
The cab drivers, acknowledging the toll this change has taken on their business, also cited safety concerns due to the new pickup location. The owner of All Star Cab, who asked to be referred to only as Raz due to the sensitivity of the subject, said that traffic coming from the South Side of Downtown Binghamton can pose potential threats to student safety.
“A lot of people drive coming from Number Five restaurant, a lot of times they don’t notice that State Street is closed and that is very dangerous,” Raz said. “They need to move [the pickup location] somewhere else because it is unsafe for the kids, and at the same time not to mention every individual cab driver is out there trying to feed their families.”
Jake Soriano, a junior double-majoring in environmental studies and art, said that he received a call from a friend who was stranded Downtown on Saturday night, and after giving him a ride back to campus, returned to help others out.
“I was only picking up friends of mine who had called before I realized how bleak things were looking,” Soriano said. “At that point, my friend and I started picking up others — people we didn’t know — off of the streets, people that were wandering aimlessly.”
According to Raz, the effect of the strike was visible, as many students were left for hours without a way home.
“They were all over the place, arguing, fighting; they were there for hours, and they were not happy,” Raz said. “I understand why they were not happy, due to nobody driving, it was a big deal.”
On Monday, the cab drivers met with Binghamton Mayor Richard David, who told them he would speak with BU officials about the change and possible solutions. According to Glenell Jaquez, the public relations coordinator for OCCT, no changes had been made as of Wednesday night. Check bupipedream.com for updates.