Socializing shifts inside intercampus shuttles

With fewer people taking in-person classes, ASU's shuttles also mirror the now-quiet campuses

ASU’s intercampus shuttles were once lively and overflowing with the high energy of young, social college students.

For some students, the shuttles were more than just a convenient means of transportation — they facilitated friendships and genuine connections. 

However, the effects of COVID-19 have dramatically shifted the average ASU student’s shuttle experience from one full of laughter to one empty of companionship. With only around 20% of students on campus as of Sept. 23, fewer people appear to be riding the shuttles.

Jasmine Amoako-Agyei, a senior studying marketing who used the shuttles every day last year and still uses them today to travel between ASU’s West and Tempe campuses for classes, said she started using the buses to save money on parking and gas, as well as to help the environment.

Amoako-Agyei said she enjoyed riding the shuttle before the coronavirus altered its circumstances.

“I actually really looked forward to my shuttle experiences,” she said. “I would often run into friends there, or even professors — it was a very social atmosphere.”

Shuttle capacity is limited to 25 people only seated in window seats, hand sanitizer is available at the door, masks are required, seatbacks have plastic partitions and a plexiglass barrier separates the driver from the passengers, according to ASU’s Novel Coronavirus FAQ page. The shuttle schedule is the same as last year, with usual routes running every 15 minutes on weekdays.

While there is a cap on the number of people allowed on the bus, students have said getting a seat on the shuttle has not been an issue. 

Amoako-Agyei said although she is grateful for the precautions taken by the University to keep her and other shuttle riders safe from the spread of coronavirus, she can’t help but miss the social aspect that once existed on the shuttle. 

“The contrast now ... it’s a bit sad, you know?” Amoako-Agyei said. “ASU has a very social atmosphere in general and shuttles aren’t excluded from that, so to see this massive shift is just crazy and sad.” 

Jasmine Amoako-Agyei’s younger brother Jason Amoako-Agyei is a freshman studying nursing who also uses the University’s shuttle system. However, for Jason Amoako-Agyei and many other freshmen, this strange, mid-pandemic era of shuttle life is all they know. 

Jason Amoako-Agyei recalls stories from his sister about large groups of students waiting to pack onto and quickly fill up every seat on the shuttle, but Jason’s experience couldn’t be more different. 

“When I came back home the other night, she was surprised that I was one of three people who were on the shuttle,” Jason Amoako-Agyei said. “Virtual classes have decreased the amount of shuttle users by a lot.”

Although Jason Amoako-Agyei and his peers may be unable to socially connect in the way his sister was able to in the past, the shuttles still help facilitate his relationships with his family and friends.

Jason Amoako-Agyei lives on the Downtown campus, but uses the shuttles multiple times a week to visit his parents and sister, who live near the West campus. 

“The shuttle being free is probably the biggest blessing there is because if I had to pay to use the shuttle, then I definitely wouldn’t be able to visit my family as often,” Jason Amoako-Agyei said. “I do struggle with some mental health problems, so my family is a huge stress reliever and they are something I really need to stay functioning.”

Vera Cortes, a freshman studying nursing, said she takes the shuttle from the Downtown campus to visit her sister and cousin who are also ASU students in Tempe.

“I think on both sides we would both be pretty lonely because I really rely on my sister and I tell her everything,” Cortes said. “She gets pretty lonely in the dorm room ... because there’s not much to do, especially if you’re not going to class in person.”

An emailed statement from a University spokesperson said the ASU charter reflects the decision to continue offering shuttle services because it states the University is measured by whom it includes and how they succeed.

"Our commitment to that principle shows up in a lot of different resources and tools and one of those is the ASU intercampus shuttle service," the statement said.

Jasmine Amoako-Agyei said she believes "the University is taking pretty good measures."

“I do feel like precautions are being taken, which makes me feel better as a student.”


Reach the reporter at kkwilso5@asu.edu and follow @kaceywilson_ on Twitter. 

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