Overcrowding on the inter-campus shuttle bus to McGill’s Macdonald campus has left commuter students feeling frustrated and underserved. Many students depend on the free service to attend classes at the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue campus—the commute without the shuttle would cost at least $7 both ways and take a minimum of one hour in each direction. As midterms loom near, downtown students are questioning whether they can rely on the service to attend their exams at Mac campus.
Students in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences use the buses for a direct, 45-minute commute to and from Macdonald campus. Each bus can transport a maximum of 60 passengers per journey. But since McGill’s transition to full in-person learning this fall, the shuttle has become an unreliable travel option. Those taking the bus at peak times face a long line outside of 688 Sherbrooke, where the Macdonald-bound bus departs. Most have no choice but to join the queue—public transit fails to offer a competitive alternative, as it requires multiple bus and metro transfers and off-peak schedules do not align with class times.
Kamryn McCallum, U2 Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, believes buses departing early is one reason for overcrowding. With class ending at 10:25 a.m. in the Maass Chemistry building, McCallum is just able to make the 10:30 shuttle, but early bus departures have forced her to miss shuttles and delay her journey until 10:45 a.m.
“Usually I am crossing Sherbrooke, right out front of [the Roddick] Gates at 10:27, and I watch it leave,” McCallum said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “I think that is another reason why the next one gets crowded, because I know I am not the only one running for that 10:30.”
Shayla Santucci, U1 Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, believes that overcrowding is a consequence of buses not showing up at their scheduled times. When fewer buses are circulating—such as between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.—there can be a backlog of students who spill over into later time slots.
While Santucci, who lives downtown, has adjusted her journey by taking earlier buses to make it to her classes on time, she notes that not everyone has this flexibility. Students with interdisciplinary concentrations, for example, have classes on both campuses, and there is often only one shuttle they can take which will get them to class on time.
When Santucci contacted McGill to express these concerns, she was told by the inter-campus shuttle service that the bus is intended for those with inter-campus obligations, implying that those with Macdonald campus concentrations should not reside downtown. The email, which was shared with the Tribune, stated that the shuttle operates on a first-come first-serve basis, and that not every student can expect to be accommodated. Santucci found this response unsatisfactory and believes that McGill intends to wait out the complaints instead of finding a more permanent solution.
In an email to the Tribune, McGill media relations officer Frédérique Mazerolle explained that ridership is influenced by the return to in-person classes and students choosing to live downtown whilst being enrolled at Macdonald Campus.
“To ensure rider safety, most buses carry a maximum of 48 seated passengers—though some buses allow for standing room, bringing the total to 60 passengers,” Mazerolle wrote. “Additionally, we must be respectful of drivers’ mandatory rest periods.”
Santucci’s professors have helped her catch up when she was unable to get to class, but she believes that the difficulty securing a spot on the shuttle disincentivizes students from attending their in-person classes.
“I would say that students now see the shuttle as an obstacle and decide whether they have to go to class based on it,” Santucci said.
For Santucci and McCallum alike, this sows a deeper anxiety as to what will happen come exam-time, when all students will be forced to attend class.