TAPS and METRO upgrade fleets and improve service

December 01, 2023

In 2019, students passed Measure 73 in the UC Santa Cruz student election to gradually increase the Student Transit Fee over a period of 11 years until 2030. As part of that student fee increase, TAPS has been able to build a working capital reserve to help support the replacement of the aging bus fleet, including transition to electric vehicles and development of infrastructure to support those vehicles.

The COVID-19 pandemic did slow things but after four years, the department has a working capital reserve that is primarily designated towards the procurement of two EV buses this year that will cost on average more than $1.2 million each plus the charging infrastructure needed to support them.

UC Santa Cruz is widely known for its longstanding commitment to sustainability and TAPS eager to upgrade our fleet of shuttles and reduce our carbon footprint. Along with procuring two electric buses and working with campus and community partners to install the necessary support infrastructure, we are concurrently studying how we will fully transition to an electric fleet, which TAPS is  fully committed to doing. With many transportation agencies working to be more sustainable, electric buses are in high demand and can have a two-year lead time from purchase to delivery. CA Air Resource Board regulations, licensing, and transportation/logistics can lead to additional delays.

To help bridge the gap between now and a full transition to EV buses, we have purchased four additional diesel buses, which we expect to have in service in winter quarter. All of our diesel buses are fueled using renewable diesel, greatly limiting the emissions.

In addition, by implementing an on-site driver training program and creating a position that allows students to apply and train as drivers, TAPS has increased Campus Transit service hours in the Fall quarter to 14% above the same time period in 2022. 

Santa Cruz METRO is also an important part of the transit system on campus and a primary mode of transport for residential students traveling off campus. UC Santa Cruz riders constitute 70% of METRO’s ridership systemwide and UCSC’s ridership on METRO buses has increased 30% since fall of 2022. 

To address this demand, METRO has secured 12 extra-long articulated buses to add to the fleet. Four of these buses are already in service exclusively for UCSC routes with six more expected to be put into service by the end of 2023 and two will be kept in reserve. A 60-foot articulated bus can accommodate 60-65 seated passengers with room for an additional 15-25 standing passengers, nearly doubling the capacity of a traditional 40-foot bus which can carry 36 seated passengers with an additional 10-15 standees (depending on the make and model of the bus).

This year, METRO is also beginning to implement changes recommended by their Reimagine METRO campaign. In Phase 1 which will be implemented December 21, 2023, METRO will increase the frequency of both routes 18 and 19 to every 15 minutes. They will also be adding the new Routes 3A and 3B which will connect the residential campus with direct service to downtown, Live Oak, and the Capitola Mall. These routes will replace routes 10 and 15 and follow the same path as route 10 between downtown and the residential campus. More information about Phase 1 (and Phase 2, which is coming in 2024) is available on METRO’s website

TAPS is dedicated to being innovative, sustainable, and customer-focused providers of access to UC Santa Cruz and as part of that we will continue to evaluate and improve services to students and all affiliates to the best of our ability. In all our decisions, we strive to be careful stewards of the fees students pay for transportation while trying to provide the highest level of service. A breakdown of how parking and transit fees are used can be found on the TAPS website. Please reach out to us any time at taps@ucsc.edu with any feedback or questions.