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October 24, 2013

Students vomiting a problem for Oneonta buses

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The State University College at Oneonta received notice recently that some bus service has been unavailable because students have been throwing up on the downtown-bound vehicles.

Incidents of vomiting on Oneonta Public Transit buses giving rides to college students isn’t new, undergraduates and city officials agreed Wednesday.

But the Student Association, which is looking for ways to address concerns, has taken a modern-era approach to finding a solution, posting Wednesday on Facebook.

The message on the SA Facebook reads: “The SA has been notified that there is a problem with students throwing up on the bus on the way downtown, which is causing buses to go offline for cleaning and therefore not available for transporting students. What ideas do you have on how to deal with this?”

Some responders suggested cleanup duty for offenders, who could be banned from riding OPT buses for a semester.

Jimmy Johnston, SA president, said the campus administration has presented educational programs about drinking alcohol, including a course required of new students this fall. Education efforts will be revisited through the student newspaper, he said, among other suggestions, such as encouraging responsible behavior and discouraging students who feel sick from boarding a bus.

The campus is dry, Johnston said, and a situation may arise from a variety of scenarios, including students making multiple trips downtown in one night.

“Obviously, we cannot police students,” Johnston said. “It’s not cool to puke on a bus.”

SA replied to comments on Facebook, saying, “We’ve had a history of students vomiting on the bus on the ride home. However, we’re now seeing an increasing number of students vomiting on the trips downtown (earlier in the night) as well. When a student vomits on the bus, the bus needs to be taken offline for at least a half hour in order to be cleaned, which delays the routes for all the other students using the bus service that night to go downtown.

“Unless we find a way to educate students or encourage them to ‘pace themselves,’ we will continue to see more and more delays with the bus service.”

The city of Oneonta contracts with the Student Association to provide bus service to students.

Paul Patterson, Oneonta director of transportation, said an OPT driver has to clean up the vomit or pick up another bus, and either option means a delay in service. He recently sent a memo to SUNY Oneonta University Police and an administrative adviser about the issue, which he described as more like a notice about road construction than a newsworthy development.

However, Patterson applauded students’ initiative to address the concerns. Sometimes OPT bus drivers are under-appreciated for the safe transportation they provide between downtown and campus, he said.

“It is so much better for these kids to be on buses than in cars,” Patterson said. “If we have to put up with a little vomit to make kids safe, I’m happy with that.”