Since the introduction of the Geneseo public bus service in 2002, bus usage in Geneseo has nearly tripled, while the percentage of students requesting parking spots has decreased. This decrease in car use has reduced carbon emissions and created a more environmentally friendly campus, according to Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio.
While the environmental aspect was not a primary motive for the introduction of free buses that service both Geneseo and Rochester, it is a positive side effect of the initiative, Bonfiglio said. The bus services have been steadily increasing for the past 14 years.
“The environmental impact was thought of, but it was not the primary impetus for the bus,” Bonfiglio said.
“We are always looking for ways to improve service to students,” Bonfiglio said. “It’s complicated developing a schedule that coincides with people’s class times and interests and so forth … and there’s a cost for everything, of course.”
The bus system was originally created as a response to feelings of disconnectedness on the Geneseo campus, Bonfiglio said. Students and faculty felt that local resources were either inaccessible or that they were isolated from local resources and activities, which prompted Bonfiglio to start an initiative to form a free public bus system.
“I felt as if the campus was disconnected from things that were important to students such as other colleges—where they could connect with other students— and stores where they could buy things they couldn’t buy in Geneseo,” Bonfiglio said. “Food-wise, there was not that much available in Geneseo. Then there’s transportation back and forth within the Village. That was the main impetus for starting this bus.”
Today the bus system has expanded to connect students to local resources, such as Walmart and Wegmans, as well as weekend trips to Letchworth State Park and Rochester. When it began in 2002, the bus was used 42,763 times in the academic year, but in the 2015-16 school year it was utilized 117,554 times, according to Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority’s Geneseo Public Bus Services Yearly Totals.
Students benefit from the local bus system as well as its accessibility to take students to Rochester, according to psychology major senior Mariam Aminalhaq.
“I use it to go to Rochester more so than places like Wegmans, so I don’t have to ask my friends for longer rides to the train station,” Aminalhaq said.
Conversely, some students have criticized the bus system.
“I don’t think the bus system is convenient,” sociology and political science double major junior Shauna Ricketts said. “You can only go to Rochester on the weekends.”
Ricketts voiced support for a bus or car rental program that could connect students with internships in Rochester that would have shifts on weekdays.
The connection between the rise in bus usage and the decrease in car usage is not concrete, Bonfiglio said. Alternate routes to Geneseo have opened; for example, Bonfiglio cited that additional plane routes connecting New York City and Rochester might lower students’ need for a car to go back and forth from school.
Not only is the lower number of cars on campus better for the environment, it is also better for the ambiance on-campus, Bonfiglio said.
“We had hoped if there’s a bus, students might be less likely to bring cars to campus, at least right away. We thought that it would be a good thing not only because less cars on campus are better for the environment and it would decrease the demand for parking spaces, but [also] a campus is more cohesive when people don’t have cars,” Bonfiglio said. “There’s a strong sense of community when people look internally for things to do rather than externally.”