Early in the semester, students noticed the presence of a new enterprise around SUNY New Paltz: the Bar Bus.
The Bar Bus is a white van that brings students to Main Street during nightlife in New Paltz, typically on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights. The ride service was started by New Paltz alum Sean Gardner as a result of the lack of transportation for people on Main Street late at night.
“The worst thing ever is leaving the bar or, you know, leaving a friend’s house and having to walk back to either on-campus or your house off- campus,” he said. “It’s cold and there’s no Ubers, no Lyfts. There’s no rideshare services, there’s almost no taxis.”
The Bar Bus is not an official rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, but it hasn’t had any trouble finding customers. Rides are scheduled ahead of time via Instagram with allotted time slots for people to request rides. Gardner estimated that on an average night, the van transports 60-80 people. “We’ve been booking out almost every night, like hours before we even start operation,” he said.
The Bar Bus’ primary customers are New Paltz students looking for rides, but the service also transports students from the nearby Marist College who want to experience New Paltz nightlife.
Other SUNY colleges like SUNY Oneonta or SUNY University at Buffalo have late night weekend shuttle services. These buses take students from campus to locations in town until the early a.m., but SUNY New Paltz does not offer a service with similar hours. The New Paltz Loop,, the college’s shuttle service, makes its last stop on campus during the weekends before 6 p.m. Besides trying to call a taxi, most students must walk back to their on-campus or off-campus residence.
There are currently three drivers transporting people with the Bar Bus. Gardner told The Oracle, “I have talked to my drivers about if someone is incapacitated, maybe not take that ride and call somebody with more authority like a patrol officer or even an ambulance if it gets to that point to try and take care of somebody.”
“We’re trying to get people home safe and get people where they need to go safely. We’re not an emergency medical service. I’ve told the guys, don’t be a hero, if you need help call somebody.”
Gardner plans to expand on the Bar Bus due to its popularity, “especially with winter coming, I’m looking at getting another vehicle just to accommodate the influx of people that want to utilize it.”
Second-year psychology major Elias Gonzalez shared his experience with the Bar Bus, “I took the bus back because it was getting really late and the taxis stopped driving people around. It was really cold and my suitemate Sam and I didn’t want to walk all the way back to the dorm so we saw the Bar Bus.”
“It was like three in the morning, almost four, and he still took us back,” he said. “Honestly it was so much fun. It felt like a friend was driving us home and it was warm in there.”
Second-year early childhood education major, Sam Lopez, who was with Gonzalez said, “The driver was very nice and friendly, he made a lot of conversation which was cool. There are LED lights and music playing in the van that makes it a fun vibe.”
“If you can’t get a ride, call us,” said Gardner. “If somebody has been drinking you might get in an accident and it’s just not worth it. It’s never worth it.”