CatTran Coordinator Discusses Ridership, Route Changes for Fall

CatTran Coordinator Discusses Ridership, Route Changes for Fall

By Jeff HarrisonUniversity Communications
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CatTran coordinator Glenn Grafton.
CatTran coordinator Glenn Grafton.

On Aug. 17, Parking and Transportation Services at The University of Arizona will resume its regular CatTran shuttle service in and around campus.

The most noticeable change will be an additional route, the Green Line, which will connect the east and northwest sides of the University.

The new route will go from the Main Library and Optical Sciences via the Mall, past UAPD and west along First Street before looping around McClelland Hall and the Fine Arts Plaza and back along Second Street and Cherry to the Mall (see map).

We spoke with Glenn Grafton, the campus transit program coordinator and shuttle supervisor, about that and other changes.

How did the Green Line come about?   

It was a collaborative effort. We had talked for the last three or four years about having a route from the southeast corner to the northwest corner. Nothing currently serves that cross-campus area, or that serves the area around UAPD. The only way we could do that was to either hire more drivers and add a bus, or change a route. As things worked out, we were able to take one of the buses off the Mauve Line and move it over to campus. 

Is CatTran ridership up or down?

On-campus ridership is up, way up. The Purple Route (from AHSC past the Main Library to the Sixth Street Garage along the east side of campus) is up 35 percent this year.

What we've seen over the last year is that traffic coming from off-campus lots into campus is down, and everything on campus is way up. People are using Sun Tran to ride to campus, and then using shuttles to get around on campus. So, we need to be able to put more buses on campus to  accommodate that.

How closely do you track numbers?  

Daily, monthly, yearly. After June, we'll hit about 480,000 total riders for the year. The Purple Line alone carried 142,000. 

How important is feedback? 

That's how the Green Line came about. I track when people call me. It gives me an idea of what works and what patterns we're looking for. Pretty soon you see patterns of where people go or what they ask about.

The (downtown) Ronstadt Center is one of those things that people asked about. We're looking for something that will work in a reasonable amount of time. A lot of the Sun Tran buses that come to campus come from the north and east. Those coming from the south, southeast or southwest come into downtown. People coming from those parts of Tucson have to transfer to another bus or two in order to get to campus.

(To give feedback, visit

Taking the USA Line to the Ronstadt Center was experimental? 

There appeared a need to do that. We're trying not to duplicate efforts with SunTran or anyone else. I think the need will go away when the streetcar eventually goes through to downtown. 

How do you get to Ronstadt with the Fourth Avenue underpass under construction? 

We hit it via the inbound route from the USA building to campus. Eventually the route will go both ways on Fourth Avenue when the underpass is completed, tentatively in November.

How many buses are there and how many miles do they travel?  

We have 17 buses and they have gone about 248,000 miles this year. That doesn't include charter services. Those go to Kitt Peak, to Phoenix and for events on campus. There have been as many as eight buses on some events. Charters are down a bit because of the economy, from as many as 80 down to about 50 this year.

We aim to have the buses last seven years, and a couple of them are at nine years.

How do you decide to make route changes? 

It's a long process. I started about two years ago talking about the changes I want to make now. It gives everyone here time to think about it and to talk to people on campus about how things might go. This year we came up with an actual route with an idea of where things were going to go, how it will work, who it will affect, and who might be impacted either positively or negatively. 

We have no interest in making a change just for the sake of change.  If there is no benefit to anyone, it doesn't make any sense to change something.

How much time do you spend analyzing data?  

We spend a lot of time analyzing facts and figures to make sure we do what's right. There isn't much sense in running a bus that no one wants to ride. That's why I base my proposals on reasons that I can back up with data. 

We don't get any state funds. We operate under our own revenue and we're watching every penny. In fact, we have a couple of guys here who are really handy at making parts for the buses, and that saves us a lot of money. We also have a graphic designer for signs and brochures that we used to send out. It makes a big difference. 

Are there other changes along the routes for the coming year?

The Mauve Line used to come down to the parking lot on Plumer (south of Broadway) and go to AHSC. We're going to make it a loop from the lot on Plumer to campus and the Main Library and back again. We found that very few people, less than 2 percent, were getting on at the parking lot and going to the hospital. That was really inefficient to go up there. That is what allowed us to take the second bus on the Mauve Line to create the Green Line.

The Purple Line, which last year went both east and west on Fourth Street, will now travel south on Cherry and Highland so we can still provide service to the Disability Resource Center and the Campus Recreation Center. The route will make a box along Highland, Sixth Street and Park Avenue, then come around and go back up to AHSC.

The Mauve Line will continue going to the shopping centers at Broadway and Campbell?

This has been popular and will get more popular this next year. We plan to get the word to RAs in the residence halls. We get a lot of people on Thursdays and Fridays, which seem to be big shopping days. 

Who gets to use the shuttles?

Anyone who is on campus. You don't need to be a student or employee. But if you're originating out of one of the remote parking lots, you'll need a pass to get on a bus. You can get on downtown or on Fourth Avenue without a pass.

We use passes for the parking lots because people would just park on the street in the neighborhood, walk over to the lot and hop on. We're trying to control that. 

Do you use Cat Tran?

I occasionally have to fill in for a driver. Last fall we had about four regular drivers who were out, so I spent quite a bit of time driving. Usually it's only about once a month.

Have you gotten any unusual requests to go to specific areas, such as Vail and Civano?

We do get requests. We talked about going to the UA Tech Park (Rita Road and I-10) but there are costs involved. We might get a parking lot there, which would help cover the cost. 

We also get a lot of requests from private apartment complexes but that's something we don't do.

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