by VERONICA A. CLARK
As an off-campus student without a car, I know that transportation can be an issue for IAIA students. Taking the Santa Fe Trails city bus home, which involves transferring at the mall, can take over two hours. To drive home would only take about fifteen minutes.
Because the city bus only goes by IAIA once an hour, if I miss one bus, it means missing an entire class. Running back to my house if I forget something is not an option.
This also means that if I miss the 5:21 p.m. bus leaving IAIA, I’m stuck at the school unless I have a ride home from someone.
Not only that, but there are no buses that go to or from IAIA in the evening or on the weekends.
How Do Students Get Around?
This has left me wondering what on-campus students do on the weekends. When gathering information for my recent article, “More Food Options After Hours, Students Say,” I noticed in the survey that many students mentioned having difficulty getting to the grocery store.
I began to wonder more about students who don’t have cars. How do they get to the grocery store?
So I decided to investigate.
Ever since IAIA moved to its current location in 2000, the student life program has been operating a shuttle service to help students get around town, according to both Alvin Sandoval, shuttle driver, and Carol Reed, housing director.
The shuttle makes runs to and from the 599 train station Monday through Friday to serve students who commute, as well as town runs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on the weekends to serve on-campus students who need to go to the grocery store or just want to get out.
The town runs take students into the main part of town, usually dropping students off at the mall. The schedule of all runs is posted on the bulletin board in the dorms.
If students need to get somewhere else, however, Reed said that the shuttle drivers would be able to give them a ride. “This is just the schedule we definitely do every day,” she said. The shuttle will also take students to doctor appointments, art stores, or anywhere else.
Taking the Shuttle From the Train Station
Damien Moore, creative writing student, commutes from Albuquerque. Moore has a truck, but takes the train when his truck is in the shop or to save money on gas.
He takes the shuttle to and from the train station when it works with his schedule, he said. When he gets out of class between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. there is not a shuttle scheduled to go to the station, so he either walks, rides his bike ”“ which he can take on the train ”“ or takes the city bus to the train station.
The train isn’t always reliable, according to Moore. After a heavy rain, the tracks can get washed out, disrupting the Rail Runner’s schedule. “When that happens, everyone’s out of luck until they can get it fixed,” Moore said.
He explained that if his truck is in the shop, the Rail Runner is his only option for transportation from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Moore said that transportation issues often interfere with school. “I’ve missed the train by seconds,” he said.
Leaving the house seconds too late can mean missing an entire day of school. If he misses the latest morning train, which leaves Albuquerque at 9:50 a.m., he won’t be able to make it into Santa Fe until 6 p.m., because the next time a train leaves Albuquerque is at 4:30 p.m.
Because the city buses stop running to the IAIA by this time, this presents a problem for Moore. “If you catch that train and you get here, you’re pretty much on your own, unless you can call the [school-provided] transportation,” Moore said.
According to Reed, if students need a ride after buses have stopped running, they would only need to call the shuttle driver. “We want to make sure everybody gets here,” she said.
IAIA’s Shuttle, Dependable Way to Leave Campus
Mark Lewis, cinematic arts major, lives on campus and uses the shuttle service to get around town. He said the shuttle service is a dependable way to leave campus during the weekends. “We know when we’re going to go and when we’re going to come back,” he said.
Lewis said grocery shopping is pretty easy with the shuttle service. He also mentioned that if students buy large canvases, mini-refrigerators, or any other large item, the shuttle service will pick them up from their exact location so they don’t have to worry about transporting it.
Lewis said there hasn’t been a time when he was unable to reach the shuttle service when he needed a ride. “You can usually get a hold of someone, so you’re not going to get stranded,” he said.
He also regularly participates in the student life activities during the weekend. Even with these available options, however, Lewis said he does feel a little stuck sometimes on the weekends.
It would be helpful if the IAIA shuttle dropped students off at the mall a little earlier on the weekends so they had more time to spend in town, he said.
Only Two Vans
Because the shuttle service shares the two vans that the school has with the student activities program, only one van is available when the student activities program is using one.
Reed also pointed out that accommodating everybody can be difficult during times when there is only one driver on duty. “Sometimes people have to be juggled when there is only one shuttle driver.”
If students are still not getting where they need to go, she wants to hear about it. “We would like to know if there are problems,” she said. “We’re here.”
(Feature photo: Santa Fe Trails city bus pulling away from IAIA’s stop. Photo by Veronica A. Clark)