The Wildcat Express, the campus shuttle that has been in operation for over 40 years, includes faithful employees Brent Hansen, Wildcat Express shuttle driver, and Ross LaRue, assistant fleet manager, who have been with Weber State University for over 20 years and have mixed feelings about the new OGX line coming to campus.

UTA has previously said they want to take over bussing students from the dorms and the Dee Events Center to campus with the new OGX line. According to LaRue and Hansen, there are still many unknown aspects when it comes to the employees of the shuttle system and whether they will keep their jobs.

The Wildcat Express logo on the bus shelter in the Dee Events Center parking lot.
The Wildcat Express logo on the bus shelter in the Dee Events Center parking lot. Photo credit: Marisa Nelson

UTA has previously said they want to take over bussing students from the dorms and the Dee Events Center to campus. According to LaRue and Hansen, there are still many unknown aspects when it comes to the employees of the shuttle system and whether they will keep their jobs.

“There’s a lot of possibilities right now. We’ve told them that we’ll help them find jobs within the facilities management organization or through our campus,” Weston Woodward, director of Campus Services, said. “A lot of the shuttle bus drivers are already retired from another job, and most of them aren’t looking for a job once our shuttle bus program ends.”

LaRue became the fleet manager in 2004 and has been helping run the shuttles since that time.

“I have mixed emotions, but I can understand some of the reasons why they want to use the BRT. I don’t believe that they’re going to have the same level of service that we’ve been able to provide,” LaRue said.

Shuttle driver Brent Hansen is the only full time shuttle driver on WSU. Hansen drives the shuttle from the Ogden campus to Davis campus. Students have taken advantage of that shuttle more since COVID-19.
Shuttle driver Brent Hansen is the only full time shuttle driver at WSU. Hansen drives the shuttle from the Ogden campus to Davis campus. Photo credit: Marisa Nelson

LaRue said that during his time here, the shuttle has gone through many shifts. He said the route has changed many times and that they even had two routes — one being more of an express route that ran from the dorms on campus directly to the old social sciences building.

While the Wildcat Express has undergone many changes since it first began over 40 years ago, more are soon to follow with the new OGX coming in to pave the way to a more connected Ogden.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus shuttle had about 15-17 thousand riders per week, according to Woodward.

The current shuttle system runs from the Dee Events Center to campus every 10-15 minutes. UTA has said that once the OGX is operational in August of 2022 that buses will run every 5 minutes.

Construction on the OGX stations continues on Ogden campus. UTA will take over taking students from the Dee Event Center and will drop them off in front of the Browning Center.
Construction on the OGX stations continues on Ogden campus. UTA will take over taking students from the Dee Event Center and will drop them off in front of the Browning Center. Photo credit: Marisa Nelson

While LaRue’s job will evolve, he said that he isn’t worried about finding another job. He said that some of his drivers have said they are ready to retire from driving anyway and this is a good time to do it, but others are not ready to leave yet.

LaRue said he is mostly concerned with the quality that UTA will provide. He doesn’t feel that their level of service will match what they are currently able to provide.

Hansen is the only full-time shuttle driver left on campus. Before the route was cut to two stops, there used to be four full-time drivers, who have since left because of personal reasons, resulting in less need for full time drivers. LaRue said that once the full-time drivers left, they were not replaced.

Hansen said that when he first started at Weber, he and his wife had both lost their jobs. He stumbled upon this job and has really enjoyed being able to have the summers off to spend with his kids.

While Hansen isn’t concerned about his job, per se, he is concerned about the quality and service that will come from UTA, like LaRue.

The Wildcat Express shuttle runs from the Dee Events Center parking lot every 5 minutes during busy hours of the day and every 15 minutes when less students are on campus.
The Wildcat Express shuttle runs from the Dee Events Center parking lot every five minutes during busy hours of the day and every 15 minutes when less students are on campus. Photo credit: Marisa Nelson

Hansen said that from what he has heard, he feels that UTA wants to cater to students who are already using the transit system and are riding the train and connecting buses to get to campus.

“But from my experience, most of our ridership comes from kids that drive to the Dee Events Center and park because there is no other parking on campus. So, we try to give them a ride from the Dee Events Center to campus, and I don’t know how UTA is going to handle that,” Hansen said.

He also worries that once the shuttle is back to its full capacity since COVID-19 and students are back to mostly in-person classes, the shuttle and buses will become even more crowded.

Construction on the OGX stations continues on Ogden campus. UTA will take over taking students from the Dee Event Center and will drop them off in front of the Browning Center.
Construction on the OGX stations continues on Ogden campus. UTA will take over taking students from the Dee Event Center and will drop them off in front of the Browning Center. Photo credit: Marisa Nelson

Hansen oversees the new route of the Wildcat Express put in place during the pandemic, which runs from the Ogden campus to the Davis campus. Woodward said they hope to continue this service, since many students have started to take advantage of it. LaRue said that as of now, this shuttle route will continue.

Both Woodward and LaRue said the UTA will not help the university with field trips or real work experience trips, such as visits to Antelope Island. UTA has not confirmed what will really happen to the part time drivers.

The Wildcat Express has been in operation for over 40 years and busses students from the Dee Event Center to the library on Ogden campus.
The Wildcat Express has been in operation for over 40 years and buses students from the Dee Event Center to the library on Ogden campus. Photo credit: Marisa Nelson

While the full system won’t be fully complete until 2023, the OGX will run from the Browning Center to the Dee Events Center as well as from the campus dorms to the Browning Center in summer 2022. The OGX will affect many on campus, but mostly those who will leave the shuttle system that they have been a part of for years.

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