Student bus drivers share experiences from behind the wheel
Students who do not have parking permits at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette can opt for buses to ferry them between Cajun Field and the university; behind the wheel, however, are students.
Joseph Zeik, junior accounting major, is one of the operators for the buses. As of this past December, he has had the job for two years and began driving in the second half of his freshman year.
“I’ve been surprised by the quality of the people I work with,” he said. “It’s like a fraternity in that I get to meet a lot of like-minded people.”
In regard to wait times, Zeik noted that the Office of Transportation has “taken flak from students” before. However, Zeik said there are problems that are unavoidable.
“Around twelve, everyone’s getting out of class, and then there are lunch breaks, so Johnston Street becomes gridlocked,” he said.
“The drivers do everything to ensure the safety of the passenger, and we take on a lot of liability to drive a 30,000-pound vehicle,” he said. Occasionally, he added, there are mechanical errors, but there’s “rarely a big issue.”
“I’ve never had any issues with it,” said Morgan Perez, a senior in business management, in reply to whether or not the buses run efficiently. “The only thing is,” she added, “sometimes the buses take too long to fill up. I’ve been late to class before for that.”
Another student commuter, Tori LeBlanc, who is a senior in sociology, said the buses run efficiently.
“The most I’ve had to wait is maybe 10-15 minutes,” she said, “and that’s after class at noon when everybody decides to take the buses back.”
When things get “trafficky,” as Zeik said, there is “a lot of concentration involved” to get students to and from the parking lot and class. “From having sun in your eyes, to when Fatima lets students out, and bikers that weave in and out of traffic — there is a lot to watch out for.”
Bennett LaMotte, a senior industrial technology major and bus driver, said he has a class B commercial driving license for bus driving, which involved training.
Before LaMotte began working for the Office of Transportation, he transferred from another school and heard of the job from a graduating senior that had driven the bus before.
“It sounded like a good job,” he said, adding that he has now been driving the bus for almost a year. “I meet somebody new every day,” LaMotte said, noting the positives of his job.
“Some of the buses have a passenger seat up front, and sometimes people come sit, and you can have a conversation with them” he added. “Personally, that’s my favorite part of the job.”
Zeik also said his “favorite aspect (was) to meet students on the buses” who were in his classes.
When the buses are running slow, LaMotte said some people are under the impression that the bus drivers are not doing their job properly. “I used to ride the buses before,” he said, “and I’d hear people complain about that.”
Overall, LaMotte said passengers are cooperative, though. “Every now and then you can get a passenger blasting music, or someone talking loud maybe or an offensive conversation,” LaMotte said, “but there’s really nothing about the job I don’t like.”
“Don’t be shy to tell us if anything is wrong,” Zeik said.
Zeik stated he has only come across small problems such as when there was a bee on a window that was “freaking out a passenger.”
One area in which Zeik and LaMotte both had advice for students was standing. They both said that one way to improve efficiency was to stand on the bus if there is room.
“Unless you have a real aversion or reason, not wanting to stand makes things harder for us,” Zeik said.
“It may be little inconvenient, but it helps us and everyone else out in the long run because we can take more people from campus,” LaMotte said.
“The truth of the matter is that we are doing the best we can,” LaMotte added. “There are only so many buses we can put on route at the time. Preferably, we’d have seven buses up until about five o’clock.”