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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Are the shuttle buses safe enough?

Students depend heavily on the use of the university’s shuttle bus services

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you get off the subway and become part of the massive herd of disgruntled, semi-conscious professors, students, and university employees that lumbers their way up the stairs, across the station, down the station corridor, and down another flight of stairs to the shuttle station. The cold air feels like a knife pressing on your face as you watch a myriad of tiny wisps of carbon dioxide leave your mouth and disappear into the atmosphere with every breath you take.

As a shuttle bus comes to a stop before you and the crowd, everyone begins to jostle with one another in order to get to the front of the group. People who you consider to be your colleagues or acquaintances suddenly become your adversaries as you all compete for something that others would find trivial if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s so cold outside.

No one wants to be part of the unfortunate few who are unable to obtain a space on the bus and have to endure the frigid elements for a bit longer. As everyone piles their way into the bus, it becomes clear to you that it’s not going to be an enjoyable trip. The lucky few who are able to obtain a seat watch in what you perceive to be sympathy as people begin to press up against you from both the front and the back in a congested, stifling mass that takes up the entirety of the bus’s cramped interior.

Despite the reality that you can no longer move in any direction, you hear a voice blaring behind you to “Step in! Move all the way to the back, folks!” You continue to hear this command until the voice finally realizes that it is impossible to fit another human being into the bus and the doors to the bus close, essentially sealing your fate. As the bus lurches forward, you struggle to maintain your balance as you grasp the metal railing (or rubber strap if you were so misfortunate)for dear life while the bus appears to hit every bump imaginable while making several hard turns. After what feels like an eternity has passed, the shuttle pulls up to the front of the Campus Center and everyone quickly files out, each wanting to put the ordeal of the shuttle ride behind them.

Unfortunately, this narrative is an unpleasant reality that most members of the university face on a daily basis. To those of us who happen to be claustrophobic, the situation is truly a nightmare. While there are certain moments of the day during which the shuttles are relatively open and everyone has an equal opportunity at finding a seat or a breathable amount of room, the morning commute has become an especially notorious affair that commuters are becoming exasperated of dealing with.

It appears that the shuttle bus drivers are putting efficiency over safety as buses are often filled to the brim with people who are compromising their personal space–not to mention their physical well-being–just to hold their place in a bus that increasingly resembles a catastrophe waiting to happen. To be fair, the shuttle bus drivers have done a commendable job by not having any serious accidents or major mishaps, but even they must admit that their activities are forming a safety hazard for those that ride the shuttles in the morning. In the hypothetical event of an accident, several people’s lives would be at risk for injuries and in some cases, death could occur.

Student injuries and fatalities are a tragedy that no university or academic institution should face, and therefore members of the university’s administration and student government should look into safer alternatives or reforms to the shuttle bus system in efforts to solve the problem and let the student body and faculty know that safety is the top priority when it comes to transportation, not efficiency.  

Superficial investigations find that the university is currently using buses that are run by a company named Crystal Transport based in Brighton, MA. It remains to be seen whether or not anyone from the company would be willing to address any of the potential concerns that people might have with the way the buses are being operated. 

The company’s website proudly boasts of its dedication to innovation and development of cutting edge hybrid technology, yet does not explicitly mention anything about passenger safety or how many people should safely be in one of their buses. Regardless, if anyone comes forward to address this issue, more must be done on the part of the administration and of the student government as well as those who feel endangered when taking the shuttle in the morning.

There will be those who say that if anyone has a problem with how the shuttles are being run, they should try walking to campus from the shuttle station for a change. There will also be those who say this is a first-world problem and that people should be grateful that the university even provides transportation to and from the subway station.

These are rebuttals that evade the issue of safety, and instead attempt to belittle and undermine those who think safety and security are important factors when it comes to transportation. Speaking of security, it’s interesting to note that members of the campus law enforcement community are quick to pull over and ticket people who drive a tad over the speed limit, yet seem to have no problem with clogged shuttle buses.

Fortunately, there are a few viable alternatives to this problem. One of them would be allowing students to open ride-sharing or carpooling businesses on campus. In this system, people would be given the opportunity to get rides from designated drivers who would use their own cars, decide how much they want to pay their driver, and rate their driver with an online evaluation system to let others know how good of a driver that individual is.

Students who drive to work could get the chance to earn a little extra income by becoming a driver, and would also get an opportunity to give back to the community by safely transporting fellow classmates and friends to school and the subway station. This addresses not only the issue of passenger safety, but the intensely debated issues of limited and expensive parking as well. In order to ensure that only the safest student drivers could become drivers for the company, extensive background checks, interviews, and driving tests could be put in place so that the best student drivers would be employed by the company.

Such a business exists in the city of Boston  a start-up company known as Lyft, which was founded in San Francisco in 2009. Lyft’s business model and operating system has earned countless praise from members of the business community for their ingenuity and practicality. Perhaps efforts can be made to reach out to the company and see if they were willing to open a section on campus?

Another option would be to talk to the shuttle bus drivers and come up with a strategy that balances both efficiency and safety. Perhaps by having more shuttle buses and drivers, there would more opportunities for commuters to get seats on a bus.

A policy can be put into place that only allows the shuttle buses to leave if everyone is seated. If there is any build-up or congestion, those people should be allowed to be taken off the bus and be given the first chance to get seats on the next shuttle bus. All of this sounds plausible in theoretical terms, but it remains unclear if it will actually work if it is ever put into practice.

The shuttle bus dilemma is another product of the increasing student body population that has become one of the top concerns facing the university today. Hopefully, there will be efforts made by either the administration, the student government, or the free market in the form of companies such as Lyft, to accommodate the increasing student body. 

There will be debate regarding what is the best course of action in terms of solving this problem, there might be a dispute over whether or not this is even a problem at all. Irrespective of the outcome, as long as there is any discussion generated regarding this topic, the potential for a solution will lie there as well.