• More Monday-Wednesday classes would help students

    Human biology junior Cameron Crane was a finalist to serve as the student regent on the UT System Board of Regents.
    Human biology junior Cameron Crane was a finalist to serve as the student regent on the UT System Board of Regents.

    On Tuesday, Student Government introduced legislation in support of increasing the number of classes available on a Monday-Wednesday schedule. The resolution states that if students have more flexibility in choosing their schedules, graduation rates may increase. Although there's not really a way to measure this, it definitely makes sense — low graduation rates can be attributed to many factors, so diminishing the potential severity of one factor won't do any harm.

    Also, the legislation, which points out that the McCombs School of Business already offers classes only Monday through Thursday, says students with three-day weekends could work more hours, possibly reducing their debt upon graduation, and would have additional time to learn outside the classroom through interning, doing research or shadowing professionals, among other opportunities. In addition, students without Friday classes would be able to "attend interviews for, but not limited to, graduate schools, professional schools, and long-term employment with limited disruption and absence from current classes."

    Cameron Crane, a College of Natural Sciences representative who co-authored the legislation, said he's applying to medical school, and he had to schedule interviews months in advance before professors had posted their syllabi.

    "It's very stressful having to take time off from classes," Crane said. "This caused the stress of, ‘will this conflict with an exam?’ and many professors will not excuse you because unfortunately, it's not a University-excused absence."

    At least one UT official said meeting three times per week allows more learning to occur, according to Crane. While this may be the case, I doubt the possible increase in learning is a significant enough difference to outweigh the benefits of more time to work, intern and even to study. Personally, I plan to study for at least a few hours on Fridays, because people generally don't plan much during the day on Fridays, so I'll have fewer distractions than on Saturdays and Sundays. Also, if UT included more Monday-Wednesday classes, many professors won't have to break up their lecture material into smaller time segments.

    Of course, the school does offer some Monday-Wednesday classes, but the increase in scheduling options will definitely benefit all students — even if some students prefer Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes, it's no doubt comforting for students to know that they have the option to focus their course schedule on the days they think would be best for them.

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  • MetroRapid proves not to be so rapid

    MetroRapid, Capital Metro's newest transportation initiative, includes technological featrues such as signal priority and an application that provides real-time arrival information and mobile ticketing.
    MetroRapid, Capital Metro's newest transportation initiative, includes technological featrues such as signal priority and an application that provides real-time arrival information and mobile ticketing.

    Update (5:01 p.m. Sept. 4): According to Capital Metro spokeswoman Melissa Ayala, Capital Metro was experiencing technical issues with digital signage at stations, and the issue since has been resolved. 

    On Aug. 24, Capital Metro launched its new MetroRapid 803 bus line traveling along Burnet Road through downtown to South Lamar, a route that is one of the most used and most contentious transportation corridors in Austin. On an early Friday afternoon at a cool 90 degrees, I walked a short .8 miles, taking 17 minutes to the nearest stop, waited 12 minutes for the next bus – which the marquee said would come in 6 minutes – and rode the bus for 19 minutes to the West Mall at UT.

    What is normally a 15-minute commute in a personal vehicle during non-peak hours turned into almost 50 minutes, nearly 30 of which were spent outside. A longer commute is expected when using public transportation, but the incorrect “real-time information” on next bus arrival times is unacceptable.

    With the launch of MetroRapid, Capital Metro initially received pushback from long-time riders who were comfortable with their fixed schedule routes, according to Capital Metro communications manager Francine Pares. But the provider promised that MetroRapid would offer frequent, faster and more reliable service. MetroRapid aims to operate at around 15-minute intervals during non-peak hours, which would make a 12-minute wait more than reasonable. However, there is no way to know when the previous bus came and left.

    Though the 803 line had only been carrying passengers for five days at the time I conducted my little experiment, a full-scale field test began July 15, almost a month before the official launch. I’d blame the false information on adjustments to back-to-school traffic, but Capital Metro has received nearly 100 complaints about the frequency of MetroRapid’s flagship 801 line since its launch in January.

    The city can’t realistically construct dedicated guide-ways that would truly make the 30 minutes of sweating worth it as you cruise by standstill traffic on the bus. But a projected wait time that varies up to 100 percent significantly erodes rider confidence and will assuredly scare off potential riders. The least Capital Metro can do is provide accurate information about how long Austinites will sweat.

    Haight is an associate editor.

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