The Mississauga MiWay buses on route to the University of Toronto Mississauga have gradually become more crowded as the university’s student population grows. With the unexpected influx of first year students for the 2018-2019 academic year, incidents of overcrowding have increased, forcing UTM students to miss class lectures and find alternative transit options to and from UTM.
“Three buses passed me. Bus too full, bus too full, bus too full. I was late to my class,” third year Psychology and Health Science student Stephanie Daher told The Medium. “I hated it. Lots of people were like ‘you know what, I’d rather walk.’ Now I have to go to square one because I’m guaranteed to get a bus. This is why I don’t bus.”
Third year art and art history student Marie Villanueva sprained her knee while standing at the back of an overcrowded bus, telling The Medium, “My left leg was planted on the ground but the rest of my body wasn’t so I got jerked around and twisted my knee. I’ve been ubering to school lately because it’s hard to get to the bus stops near my home with a wheelchair or crutches.”
In 2007, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students Union (UTMSU) worked with MiWay to create the Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) program in an effort to make commuting to UTM easier and more affordable.
“UTMSU has established the Universal Transit Pass Program alongside the City of Mississauga for students to have unlimited transit access with no direct and regular payment needed throughout the eighth month fall/winter semesters and the summer four-month term respectively,” explained a representative from MiWay’s customer service in an interview with The Medium.
The U-Pass program requires a mandatory fee of $232.80 each year (adjusted for inflation) from eligible full-time and part-time UTM students. This mandatory U-Pass fee is incorporated in their tuition payment regardless of transit usage.
“Students have always spoken highly about the program and continue to maintain their pleasure with it”, UTMSU’s Media correspondent told The Medium. “Participation in the program is well over 90% each year and we are quite happy that the uptake is always so high.
When discussing the overcrowded MiWay buses, UTMSU Media stated that overcrowding is “something the UTMSU takes very seriously.”
“We ensure that the city [of Mississauga] improves routes and scheduling by maintaining more buses,” they continued, “and that extended buses are included in the peak times that students exit and enter campus. This cannot be done without student consultation and we always invite students to speak to our executives who liaise with the city directly. Since enrollment has maintained its numbers but the first year class has grown ostensibly this year, we are reviewing the situation actively.”
On the other hand, an inquiry sent to MiWay regarding overcrowding on bus routes to UTM resulted in a report from MiWay’s Service Development department that detailed the following:
“[MiWay is] aware there have been incidents of overcrowding on a number of bus routes during September and October this year, in particular on routes 44 and 101,” said Kyle, the Service Development Customer Service Representative of MiWay Mississauga.
“MiWay defines overcrowding as when the passenger load exceeds 55 passengers on a standard size (40ft) bus,” he continued.
Miway uses several ridership and service monitoring tools to process feedback from customers, drivers, and staff, including farebox data, customer feedback, incident logs, and on-board ridership counts. MiWay staff have reviewed records from all of these sources and are aware of incidents of overcrowding that began at the start of the school year.
“This is not uncommon while students are still in the process of getting acquainted with their curriculum and figuring out their travel patterns,” said Kyle. “Based on our findings, the incidents of overcrowding were greatest at the beginning of September and, although less, are still occurring today. We need to determine where improvements are required and the time periods where additional service may be required. We are investigating these incidents to ensure we have an accurate understanding of the ridership levels in order to implement the necessary changes. Improvements such as adjustments to bus type, adding additional trips, or even improving the frequency are currently being reviewed. If such overcrowding continues to occur, we will implement these changes as soon as possible.”
Moreover, the report identified overcrowding to be at its highest point on the Route 44 bus arriving at UTM at 8:42 am and the Route 101 Westbound bus around 8:30 am.
Regarding overcrowding on Route 44 trips, the report stated that MiWay “will adjust the time of the short trip following this to run earlier so that it arrives at the university around 8:45 a.m. in time for classes starting at 9 a.m.” This change to the Route 44 bus trip will not occur until after February 25, 2019.
“Due to the lead time required to make changes to bus schedules we can only make changes three months in advance, so the next opportunity we have to make these changes is the February Board Period, starting 25th February.”
Regarding Route 101 trips, the report states resources are not currently available to curtail overcrowding in the morning westbound trips.
“Unfortunately, we do not have resources at present to add any new trips at this time of the day, because it is during the peak and all our buses are fully utilized at this time,” said the Service Planning representative. “We will however continue to monitor passenger loads on the 101, and other services, and prioritise resources as they become available.”
“I would like to apologise for the inconvenience to passengers that crowded buses have caused,” the representative continued, “and would like to assure you we are working to improve our service as soon as we can.”
The UTMSU also told The Medium that they have been maintaining an audience with the city of Mississauga to discuss an expansion of the U-PASS program in the future to cover the transit costs for students traveling on Brampton transit. UTMSU Media stated that they need “representatives from the City of Brampton to assist in establishing Brampton student access. This will take time but we are optimistic that a reasonable price can be established after the Municipal Elections conclude.”