As of Jan. 3, 2023, the Gold bus line returned to UNC Charlotte for students and staff.
Parking and Transportation Services (PaTS) announced the updated changes for the spring 2023 semester on their website.
The bus schedule will reflect the following changes:
- The Gold Line service will operate Monday through Friday, 6-2 a.m.
- Beginning Jan. 9, the Red Line will run Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- The Green and Silver routes will now run until 2 a.m. instead of midnight.
- The Greek Village Shuttle schedule will remain the same, running during the limited schedule on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Niner Paratransit will operate on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- The shopping shuttle will still be available Friday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
"The staffing and labor shortages that were sparked during COVID were not just isolated to one or two industries; the professional driving industry was hit hard," said Michael Christenbury, assistant director for transportation. "We were struggling before COVID. So that perpetuated the issues with recruiting and retaining people in the workforce. In addition, the federal regulations that govern CDL drivers became more stringent in February 2022. So it made it even more difficult for those who wanted to enter the field to become a CDL driver. This was not just for new drivers but also recertification."
Before the pandemic, PaTS dealt with staffing shortages. However, the pandemic caused bus drivers to decline and become more challenging to hire. UNC Charlotte uses the contract vendor Academy Bus to obtain bus drivers.
"[Academy Bus is] a nationwide company, and they have other terminals that have operations up and down the east coast," said Christenbury. "So they are pulling drivers from these other locations with a time commitment to help fill the gaps that we have in our normal staffing pool for Niner Transit. So those drivers have been arriving all week [and] they have started training."
With staffing shortages and difficulty hiring certified drivers, PaTS decided to let the Gold Line go. Christenbury said that 10% of the volume of riders were riding the Gold route, 35% on the Green route and 55% on the Silver line. These numbers helped PaTS decide which line to let go of temporarily.
The Gold bus returned because the ride time was too long to get from one destination to the other. The Gold route is the same as the Green Line but runs in the opposite direction.
On the Silver route, four buses run regularly. A fifth Silver bus was added to deal with the traffic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The fifth Silver bus was then turned into the Red route.
"We're hoping that adding [the Red route] will help expedite traffic from one side of campus to the other," said Christenbury.
The Red bus route started in the spring of 2020 as an express bus and an abbreviated Silver route with only five stops. The Red route will begin on Jan. 9, when classes start.