Blacksburg Transit Struggles As School Year Begins
Updated: Sep 14
A student prepares to board a Blacksburg Transit bus. Newer models include updated interiors and hybrid engines.
Blacksburg, VA- The Blacksburg Transit (BT) System is facing difficulties as the academic year begins. Out-of-service buses, overcrowding, and information issues plaguing the affiliated Blacksburg Transit phone app are prompting members of the ridership to speak out.
“The buses don’t come on time and they’re super crowded.” said Jan Delgaudio, a sophomore majoring in Biology and Chemistry, “It takes away my joy.”
According to the American Public Transportation Association reports, there are an average of 16,000 riders a day on BT.
With 13 active buses that each have a capacity of up to 60 riders, overcrowding begins at peak times before classes and during football season with buses passing stops with dozens of waiting passengers while displaying “BUS FULL” indicators.
The scenes inside the buses themselves are not much better, with many standing shoulder to shoulder among strangers.
“I don’t like how they pack us in over full capacity,” said Hope Partrick, a Senior majoring in Political Science, “It would be nice if we weren’t squished in there like sardines”
With a yearly ridership total of 3.3 million for the fiscal year 2022, many students and members of the Blacksburg community rely on BT for transportation to work and school, but the reality facing BT riders is that the quality they expect is not the quality they are receiving.
Brian Parkhurst is a driver for BT beginning his 10th year with the company as both a driver and line trainer. He remembers when BT was an award-winning bus service that ran on time with enough buses to meet the demand. He cites a lack of staff in both the maintenance and drivers as contributing factors to the ridership issues.
Parkhurst said that buses are breaking down constantly– which comes not only because of the lack of maintenance staff but also of the fact that BT is supposed to replace buses every 10 years. Some buses in the BT fleet are as old as 2009.
BT has made attempts to remedy the issues, with Parkhurst himself training over 30 new drivers, but very few decided to stay with BT.
“It’s unacceptable, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Parkhurst said.