The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (COMET) is operating USC's campus transit system for the first time with a full campus this year. Its initial contract with USC brought several changes to the system, including a rule that requires students to swipe their CarolinaCards before boarding campus busses.
This rule will be enforced beginning the first week of September, according to Eric Harris, COMET's planning and development specialist.
The university's contract with COMET began in September 2020, making this COMET's second year operating the campus transit system. The contract is reviewed annually.
“This is the first time we've had a full campus since we've taken on the contract. So, we're really excited about that. And we're going to use this semester as a mark of making sure we can adjust times and reliability and things of that nature,” Harris said.
Other changes include new shuttle busses with amenities such as Wi-Fi hot spots and USB charging capabilities.
You can identify the new busses based on the dual COMET and USC wrappings around the exterior. The busses also feature a display screen that indicates which route the bus is running.
Several routes have been altered, added and discarded through the university's partnership with COMET.
Notable changes include the addition of the BullStreet District Park & Ride shuttle. Students can park at the university’s property in the BullStreet District, and every 20 minutes from 7:15 a.m. to 7 p.m., a shuttle will bring students directly to campus.
“For those who are struggling finding parking, if you can plan a little bit, that’s a great option to get you right to the Horseshoe,” Koby Padgett, communications manager for USC's Division of Administration and Finance, said.
More information regarding the campus transit routes can be found on COMET’s website.
On days when USC doesn't hold class, such as Labor Day, only shuttle routes 13, 14 and 20 will operate.
The game day shuttle service, which was suspended last year because of COVID-19, will return to transport students to football and baseball games. It won't run for basketball games.
“The issue is not necessarily whether or not we can run it: we can. The caveat will be, what is the capacity that the stadium will take?” Harris said. “Does the university feel comfortable with compiling this many students in one area?”
To ride the game day shuttle, students will need a face covering, a ticket to game and their CarolinaCards.
While these means of tracking the campus transit system are mostly reliable, technology isn't "failsafe," so it's best to get to the shuttle stops "a few minutes earlier than you think you have to," according to Padgett.
The campus transit system under COMET is a "fixed-route" system, not a true shuttle system. This means students should be able to rely on the busses to arrive at a scheduled time, according to Harris. However, this is complicated by the return to a full campus.
“Obviously, with the increased traffic, we may see more cars and more people crossing the street, which causes the bus to slow down. And we all know the infamous train that likes to slow down everything. So, we're just trying to manage with all these moving parts,” Harris said.
Grace Martin, second-year public health student and Greek Village resident, said she hopes that COMET will add another route through Greek Village, citing "overfilled" busses.
"There's only one bus that runs all day through Greek Village, and it can kind of take a while to wait for it sometimes," Martin said. "Greek Village is on campus, but it's so far from everything."
Students who have feedback for The COMET regarding campus transit services will have several opportunities to share their thoughts throughout the year. COMET will hold public forums each semester, according to Harris.
"Any feedback would be greatly accepted because that's how we make improvements on the services," Harris said.