By Naidelly Coelho
This semester, the Student Transportation Center is operating under reduced hours due to staffing shortages.
RamTram now operates Monday through Friday from 5:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Transportation Services Coordinator Kim Galvani said the current obstacle regarding RamTram staffing is most students need to be off campus due to outside responsibilities.
However, a new “Uber-like” program will be available to students for free on the weekends.
Galvani recently met with the coordinator of the MetroWest Regional Transportation Service to talk about bringing the CATCH Connect service to FSU.
CATCH Connect operates like the Uber transportation service.
Like Uber, students can download the app and use their school email to make an account. Students can order the shuttles at a designated location and drop off at a location of their choosing. CATCH Connect only serves specific locations in the MetroWest area.
Students can use CATCH Connect service at no cost on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Galvani said.
She said the RamTram does not provide services before noon on weekends, and with the addition of the CATCH Connect service, students can request a ride as early as 8 a.m.
The shuttle takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to arrive after a ride is requested, she said.
CATCH Connect will provide broader services as students will be able to request a ride within any address of the Downtown Framingham, Downtown Natick and the “Golden Triangle retail area,” whereas the RamTram only provides services to Target, Shoppers World and Natick.
Galvani said when she first started at her current position, there were about 30 students working for the STC and now, there are only five students and two full-time drivers.
Galvani said those numbers dropped about 50% compared to last year.
“Our pool sometimes shrinks depending on how many students have graduated and how many students left before the end of the year. September is always the most difficult as students return. They tend to trickle in,” Galvani said.
Students are only allowed to work 20 hours maximum per week. However, students should “at least commit to 12 hours per week,” she said.
Galvani said there are some exemptions to the 20-hour restriction set in place for students.
According to the policy found on MyFramingham, “The only exceptions to the restrictions on hours are for resident assistants, hours that are worked during peak periods at the beginning of the academic year, Black and Gold Beginnings, or excess hours worked due to unforeseen/emergency situations. Even in these situations, student workers should not be permitted to work more than eight hours per day, and may not exceed 40 hours in a week.”
Galvani said recruiting is very difficult because many students don’t check their emails over summer vacation during recruiting season, which results in STC starting understaffed at the beginning of the academic year.
“Not everybody wants to drive the shuttle - it's kind of a unique job. You have to be comfortable being able to drive a vehicle. They have to pass the DOT [Department of Transportation] physical and a DOT drug screen to work here. So, there's a little involvement as a safety-sensitive job,” she said.
STC leases shuttles from Metrowest Regional Transportation (MWRT) in order to run the RamTram.
Galvani encourages students to work at the STC because if they have enough staff, the RamTram can run for longer periods of time.
“It takes about four hours or so of training, but we always offer more if they want more. And then we always do follow-ups and some managers will go and observe their driving once they start,” she said.
Galvani said the training is required and is paid.
She said she prefers students to have at least one year of driving experience before operating the shuttles.
STC also offers services to faculty members, such as providing a shuttle service for field trips that are in relatively close proximity to FSU, she said.
“We can't always do that. If I had a big staff, we’d be able to do more, but I think that's not going to happen anytime soon,” Galvani said.
Ben Clarke, an STC student worker, said he has not seen much change in the STC. His shifts have been about the same amount of time, but more frequent.
“I can make my own hours. I work another job, so it's nice that I can fit this into my schedule pretty easily. It works for the students,” Clark said.
Owen Glancy, an STC student worker, said since the STC is understaffed, it is taking more of his time than he planned.
“I've been working 30 hours per week, which has definitely cut into [school] assignments and personal time,” he said.
Glancy encourages students to join STC because “it’s a great way to really familiarize yourself with how the campus functions, even outside of the STC, because despite the fact you're employed at STC, you'll also be interacting with tons of different clubs and staff since they'll often request transportation to specific events from us.”
Jaymee Pelloquin, a sophomore, said the CATCH Connect service will be a good opportunity for students because “better transportation will give students easier access to things if they might not have a car here, like going to the grocery store, or just going out with friends.”
She said one day when she first arrived at school in the morning and was walking toward the shuttle, the driver saw her and left her behind. She had to walk from Maple Lot and was 10 minutes late for her class.
Jordan Ortins, a freshman, said that with CATCH Connect, she will go to the Natick Mall more often and hang out in more locations.
Olivia Alexander, a senior, said “I think it'd be helpful because I know a few times myself, I've been left at places by the STC. So I think it'd be helpful so I don't get left anywhere.”
Galvani said once more students join as workers, “We become a little STC family, and everybody really supports each other.”
Students can get more information and apply to work at STC through Handshake.
[Editor's Note: Owen Glancy is Assistant Arts & Features Editor for The Gatepost.]