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April 18, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

University Shuttle Service outsourced to Groome Transportation

The University is outsourcing its shuttle services, and while some think this will benefit students, others believe the negative consequences drivers could face outweigh the benefits. The department made the decision Wednesday to outsource for lower-cost drivers and use new buses.

“The University is always looking for ways to save our students money, create efficiencies and lower costs, and that’s really what started us down that path,” Brad Leigh, the executive director for Business Operations, said.

However, fees for students will remain the same.

“The shuttle service is funded by a general service fee that the students are charged. The fee itself should remain unchanged; it’s been costing us more to run it than the fee was covering. This will allow us to lower (the cost to run the service) so that the fee is sufficient to cover that cost,” Leigh said.

According to an email sent out Wednesday, the buses will need around $250,000 in replacement and maintenance costs, and the decision to outsource will save from $200,000 to $250,000.

This arrangement will go into effect July 1, 2018.

Leigh also said with lower costs, students should be expecting new buses and better technology, hopefully with “the same friendly service they’ve been accustomed to and appreciated.”

Different students have said they loved the service from the shuttles, especially service from Richard L. Van Horn, who goes out of his way to develop personal relationships with all the students who ride his bus. He goes to their sporting events and performances and keeps track of where they go after graduation. He is determined to make them smile. He continually expressed love for students he has met while driving the buses, which he estimated to total about 50,000.

He has been very vocal on Facebook about his opposition to the outsourcing, and he feels that he is not receiving support from the University.

Students have shown love for Van Horn in return. When he expressed his disappointment with the outsourcing on Facebook, students responded with messages of love for him. There is now a petition on for Van Horn to keep his job, which held 1,090 signatures as of Jan. 24, 2018.

Van Horn had stated before the announcement that, if the University decided to outsource, his last day driving would be May 15, 2018. He feels the changes will make it hard on him, but he said he loves the students nonetheless.

“I’ve never had a decision made by the University that I passionately did not agree with,” Kody Korbas said, a gerontology senior who has been driving the buses for three years. “I’m all for finding ways to save money, finding ways to give the students here the same services, but I truly believe that this decision will not be a great decision for the University for many different reasons — for not providing charters, not hiring students.”

Another problem opponents have with the agreement is that people under the age of 25 cannot currently drive for Groome Transportation, the company that will operate the new shuttles.

“Their current policies do say that the drivers should be 25 years of age,” Leigh said. “That is where it becomes a challenge for some of our student drivers, and we’ve asked (Groome) to revisit that. And they’ve agreed to go back and talk with their group to see if there could be a way they could make an adjustment to their current policy to allow for student employees at the University to continue to be drivers under this new agreement. So, all we can do is ask them to revisit it, and they have agreed to do that. If, in the event that they are not able to change that, we would gladly work with all of our students to find them other employment opportunities on campus,”

Seven students will have to be considered for continued employment or find new jobs next year. Shuttle salaries are among the highest for student on-campus jobs, at $11.57 per hour.

“A lot of things that I view that could be problematic — because the reason we started hiring student drivers was because there was not enough interest in the community, and so I foresee that being a problem with the potential outsourcer,” Korbas said.

Korbas loves driving the buses, and he thinks it a great opportunity for students to meet people, get to know the campus and surrounding areas and have a job that is not sitting at a desk.

He considers his fellow bus drivers a “second family” and worries about the impact on them.

The University’s current drivers will be considered for employment with Groome, but there is no guarantee. All drivers must be able to obtain an Ohio Department of Transportation Operator Card. Requirements for the card include a physical exam.

“I’m all for saving money, making the University as best as it can be, but I don’t want this decision to impact so many people it will be impacting — not just student shuttle drivers, but full time and part time people, as well,” Korbas said. “(A) third party company compared to an employee from the University… can be completely different.”

Current employees may not necessarily be taking a pay cut, but their pay is not longer up to the University; it will be determined by Groome Transportation, Leigh said.

Groome will also not be providing charters, which Korbas finds problematic.

“(Groome) won’t be providing charters, and so the people on campus will have to go through a different company. So, money that could be staying in the University will not be because the new company will not be providing that service. Someone who uses the charter service often will have to be paying an outside service for it and have to be paying more for it because it’s an outside service. For instance, Childers is a company in Toledo that we use for big events that we can’t provide enough buses for, like preview days, stuff like that; they are more expensive to charter bus than we offer,” Korbas said.

Charter buses are something the shuttle department is looking into with Groome, Leigh said.

Other departments on campus have been outsourced in the past, like the dining halls and the Falcon Health Center.

New buses should be arriving on campus next fall, Leigh said.

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