The University of Connecticut Transportation Services officially introduced 10 new buses to its fleet Thursday, with a showcase of one of the new buses held on Fairfield Way for students to learn about the new vehicles Thursday morning.
The integration coincides with the new “Husky GO” brand introduction, which will be the brand for all UConn buses in the future, said general manager of the UConn Transportation and Fleet Services Dennis Solensky.
The new buses were built by New Flyer Corp. in Minnesota. Each vehicle has USB charging ports, LED lighting, two wheelchair positions, a bike rack that can fit two bikes, automated passenger counters and a camera system, Solensky said.
Each bus can fit 31 passengers, and will have WiFi access available beginning in Fall 2017, Solensky said. The buses cost $4.2 million, though they have a lifespan of about 12 years and cost less to maintain than the previous buses, Solensky said.
“They’re more durable and cost-efficient to operate,” Solensky said. “They’re a heavy-duty bus.”
The buses are also more handicap-accessible, due to their ability to “kneel” in the front lower the bus itself, bringing the front step closer to the ground for easier boarding, Solensky said.
“They’ll be more reliable, the ride is much more comfortable and the technological advancements we have on them are far superior to anything we’ve had before,” Solensky said.
Part of new fleet services will include the extension of Connecticut’s CTfastrak service to UConn, Solensky said. The extension will enable students to connect with other bus services through central Connecticut, Solensky said, and by having lines that route to Hartford..
The new fleet will also allow for a restructuring and further expansion beyond campus, Solensky said.
“As the campus is changing, we want to stay on top of having the best routes possible,” Solensky said. “The university has grown to the point where mass transit is necessary and possible. These buses are going to help us do a lot more.”
Plans are in the works to extend bus service and modify existing routes, Solensky said, based on a future survey of current roads on campus.
“We’re negotiating right now for an evening extension,” Solensky said. “We’re looking at weekend services.”
Further expansions will include transportation to more athletic and special events, Solensky said. However, a full reroute is still further down the line, he said.
“It’ll take about a year to get someone on board to do a full evaluation of our routes,” he said.
Students have expressed a need in the past for extended routes and coverage for off-campus housing, especially due to parking issues on campus.
“I would like to see a broader (range) of transport at campus,” said William Brown, a sixth-semester electrical and computer engineering major. “I’m an off-campus student, and parking is one of the biggest issues. If they were to extend to bus routes to some of the further apartment complexes, I’d definitely take the bus.”
In addition to route expansion, Solensky said that Transportation Services is looking to introduce alternative fuel vehicles, such as natural gas and electric powered buses, in the future.
“One of the technologies we’re excited about is the electric buses. It’s being used on a lot of campuses now,” Solensky said.
Though Solensky said he seeks to replace the entire bus fleet with the New Flyer Buses, the Ice Bus will remain in operation, Solensky said.
Students so far have reacted positively to the new buses, some of which have been in operation preceding the official fleet introduction.
“I like them. They’re nice,” said Julia Dugas, a sixth-semester biomedical engineering major. “I think they’re better. They have a more modern look and they’re cleaner.”
Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.