Editor's note: Click here to read CATA's response to this article.
On July 24, CATA and Penn State announced that all Blue and White Loop campus transit services will be suspended for the fall 2020 semester to mitigate risks associated with the coronavirus spreading through heavily populated areas.
The Blue and White Loop are two of the four main buses for on-campus travel. Both bus routes provide services around Penn State’s campus and through downtown State College for Penn State students, faculty and staff. Without these two main bus services, the daily lives, travel plans and schedules of many Penn State students will be affected — and they aren't happy about it.
Lauren, who asked that her last name not be used to avoid employer discrimination, is living on campus in the Pollock Residence Halls this fall. She said she has been a “daily user" of the Blue and White Loops in the past because her classes tend to be at least a 25-minute walk from her dorm.
Lauren (sophomore-biobehavioral health) also said that not having a Blue or White Loop is concerning to her as a woman and as someone with mobility issues. Since she has an injured knee, walking long distances or for long periods of time can be difficult for her. In 2019, Lauren was also harassed while walking in downtown State College — overall, she said she feels safer and more comfortable taking the bus to her destinations.
This fall, one of her in-person classes will be held at night in the Kern Building, which is on the opposite side of campus from where she lives in Pollock. Now, when she leaves class at 8 p.m., she said she will be worried for her safety and health.
“A lot of students with disabilities rely on the Blue or White Loop," Lauren said. "It feels alienating that [university administrators and CATA] did this without considering us."
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Similarly, Payton Mendygral said Penn State and CATA did not consider disabled students when suspending Blue and White Loop bus services.
“It’s not accommodating those who need special accommodations, and it’s going to have a hard impact on people who have a difficult time getting around,” Mendygral said.
Mendygral (senior-immunology and infectious diseases and biostatistics) will also live on campus this fall. She feels like the suspension of these services is a great inconvenience and detriment to the lives of students, potentially causing them to be late and limiting their options when making schedules.
“You have 15 minutes typically to get to classes... classes for some people are literally across campus a mile away," Mendygral said. "Some people can't afford to make that walk."
Some students have also expressed concern for having to walk long distances through campus amid severe weather, as University Park is known to sometimes have very heavy rain and snow storms.
“I’m not sure students are going to be able to walk everywhere in inclement weather at all,” Mendrygal said.
Bryn Wambaugh will be living off campus this fall in Beaver Hill Apartments. She said she is disappointed that there will be no Blue or White Loops because the walk from her apartment to campus can be very long and dangerous.
Wambaugh (senior-environmental resource management) also said she has concerns about students having to walk everywhere on campus in the cold weather amid the coronavirus pandemic because “when you’re in the cold, your immune system is lowered.”
Although some students are disappointed, however, others are understanding of Penn State and CATA’s decision.
Rylie Adams, an incoming freshman who will be living on campus this fall, said the administration’s decision makes sense “for what’s going on.”
“The reason I chose Penn State is because it’s such a walkable campus, so I think it’s really nice and not going to be that bad without the bus,” Adams said.
However, Adams (freshman-geography) also questioned why the administration chose to suspend the Blue and White Loops instead of implementing social distancing guidelines and having the buses operate at a lower capacity.
Mendygral echoed the sentiment, saying she didn’t understand why CATA won’t implement safety protocols on its bus loops this fall.
“I’m going to feel very lost without [the Blue and White loops],” Mendygral said.
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