Robert Lewis is familiar with a neon sign reading “full bus” in all capital letters.
Lewis, a handyman who has lived in Gainesville for about 10 years, said he relies on the Regional Transit System buses to get him where he needs to be every day.
But for the past two weeks he said some rides on Routes 35, 9 and 20 have had standing-room only.
Chip Skinner, RTS marketing and communications supervisor, said the company usually sees a rise in customer complaints around the end of August, just as University of Florida and Santa Fe College students are heading back to school.
One particular route receiving complaints is route 20, which runs from the J. Wayne Reitz Union to the Oaks Mall. Route 21, which ran from Cabana Beach to the Reitz Union, was recently eliminated, and four buses were added to Route 20 to fill the void.
RTS may reinstate Route 21 due to overcrowding and in response to the number of complaints received since the beginning of the semester, Skinner said.
But he said people are creatures of habit and most will adjust to the new schedule as the semester progresses. Increasing the number of buses is possible as long as the money is there. He said half of RTS’s budget comes from UF and Santa Fe.
Skinner said RTS is constantly looking for ways to improve its performance and tries to respond to phone calls, comments on Facebook and comments received through their website.
“The more ways they reach out to us, then we can do more due diligence and increase performance,” he said.
To avoid schedule conflicts, Skinner recommends checking bus schedules online or through the TransLoc app.
The goal for RTS should be to make public transportation convenient and frequent, said former City Commissioner and mayoral candidate Lauren Poe.
But Poe acknowledged changes to any existing system come down to dollars. He said he hopes to increase the buses to run every 15 to 20 minutes.
This change would take a budget increase, Skinner said.
Given the current budget, a more realistic target would be to run routes at least every 30 minutes, he said. But as long as the money is available, RTS will work to meet the needs of the public.
As a frequent customer, Lewis said the key to avoiding those “full bus” signs is to leave with plenty of time and to plan ahead.
He said he hopes Route 21 is restored and reduces the number of people on Route 20, but until then he believes the problem may resolve itself.
“I think it’ll get better once people figure out what they’re doing,” he said.