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  • Writer's pictureMason Edwards!

An Alternative to Endlessly Circling for Parking: the Mocs Express

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Students ride on a Mocs Express bus. Thursday, August 25, 2022. Oliver Lampley, Staff Photographer

By 7:45 a.m., parking next to Lupton Hall, the Engineering, Math, and Computer Science building, Cadek Hall, and the Library fills to the brim. Angry commuters circle, hoping it might be their lucky day.

At 7:50 a.m., it’s time to consider parking on the street–if it takes card? Hopefully, a video tutorial can explain how to parallel park before class begins.

It’s now 8 a.m., and the once empty lots on Collins Street lose vacancy by the minute. A vicious cycle begins: the soul-crushing realization that what appeared to be an open spot was merely a compact car camouflage by a large van. By this point, it’s too late to check the syllabus’s tardy policy.

On Monday, August 26, UTC Parking Services warned via campus-wide email, “ we are expecting a ‘normal’ amount of vehicles this semester, general parking will not be as easily available as it has been last year.”

The email suggests parking at Engel Stadium, so as to avoid the teeth-grinding anxiety of finding a parking spot after 7:30 a.m.. For students or faculty already running behind, it seems like an inconvenience. Yet, others plan their commutes around the Mocs Express with success.

For his first semester, Jonathan Cruz could not navigate campus or find parking. Cruz hopped on the shuttle, and now a sophomore, he still rides it.

The Mocs Express is “very fast and efficient, and it got me to the place I needed to be within three minutes,” Cruz said. 

Reliable, efficient travel benefits more people than students, said Dean Assistant and Professor Linda Gehron. She grinned as she stepped off the bus stairs, wishing the driver a good day.

“I think it’s a really good thing for the students and staff and faculty to have on campus,” said Gehron. “The drivers are always courteous, it’s clean, it’s just a good thing.”

Even with happy reviews, public transportation can always be improved. Cruz added he wished to see the estimated time of arrival screens working. Plus, there’s the concern of pollution emitted from the city buses, but this is set to become an issue of the past. 

“We’re going through final inspections, but there’s no exact date,” said CARTA General Manager of Planning and Grants Philip Pugliese. “I can say it will be very soon, and we are planning a roll-out event.” 

The new buses, which are the Build Your Dreams K7 model, run entirely on battery electricity, with zero emissions.

Construction for wireless chargers will soon commence by the bus stop at Engel Stadium, said Pugliese. They will be specially designed to provide UTC buses with a rapid, high-powered charge, according to the BYD factsheet. 

“CARTA has engineering and academic partners, like UTC, Vanderbilt, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,” he said. “We’ve been funded to create an energy map, based on performance metrics, to measure the impact of the buses on the electric grid.”

The change is not entirely new for CARTA, having recently celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the downtown electric bus.

“The goal is an all-electric fleet, including both city buses and smaller-capacity vans,” Pugliese said. 

Teka Moore has spent the last two years driving for the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority and spoke freely about the issues and benefits of working the shuttle. 

Moore said she went straight to CARTA after leaving her previous job of ten years. According to her, there is a need for more drivers. “They’ve got us working six days a week,” Moore said. 

At Engel Stadium, shuttles whirled past Moore as she spoke, and she explained they must have been running late. Soon enough, she pulled a classic, corded telephone down from the bus wall and called dispatch, keeping the same polite tone as when talking to passengers.

Moore said she doesn’t mind the UTC route as she said she doesn’t have trouble with the students. Though, Chattanooga drivers could learn a few more skills she said.  

“People drive crazy here anyway,” Moore said. “They drive like they got their license inside a Cracker Jack box.” She chuckled to herself.

As much as the Mocs Express is praised, CARTA wants to improve public transportation, so they’ve partnered with UTC’s Dr. Chandra Ward to research commuter opinion via survey

CARTA schedules three buses every six minutes, beginning at 7:30 a.m., in time for those dreaded 8 a.m. classes. The routes end at 8:30 p.m. 

The Campus Shuttle page offers more details, like bus routes and times.

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