Expand the safety shuttle
In many ways, MIT's safety shuttle, "A Safe Ride," has become a victim of its own success. After more than a semester of preparation last year, the Undergraduate Association Safety Committee, with the support of the MIT administration, launched a one-van, on-call shuttle service to serve both the MIT campus and surrounding Independent Living Groups. The cost of the project for the first year was approximately $80,000.
The program has gotten off to an extremely successful start. Use of the van is higher than any of its organizers ever hoped. Complaints of having to wait for more than an hour for the van to arrive attest to the fact that students want -- and more importantly, will actually use -- a safety shuttle.
In response to the shuttle's overwhelming popularity, the Institute has offered to acquire another van. This would allow for one route around Cambridge and another route around Boston. Scheduled routes would do much to eliminate the long waiting periods associated with an on-demand system, because students would know when and where to expect the shuttle.
But even this is not enough. With one van circling a 21-minute-long route in Cambridge and another spending 46 minutes in Boston, waits for the shuttle could still be extremely long, even if it runs on time. And the prospect of students waiting outside for the better part of an hour creates more safety hazards than it solves.
The solution is simple: Expand the shuttle system and add more vans. The safety program is only worthwhile if there are at least two vans on the Cambridge side of the river and three on the Boston side in order to keep the average wait down to about ten minutes. Otherwise, the enormous amount of time that would be spent waiting for a ride would be prohibitive. A shuttle wouldn't be worth having, because nobody would be willing to wait for it.
Having a shuttle fleet of five vans is hardly an unreasonable request. Harvard University runs a shuttle system with six buses, and Tufts University's system has several cars driven by students.
Unfortunately, the MIT administration has taken the attitude that providing safe, reliable transportation to students is a luxury rather than a necessity, as demonstrated by the fact that current shuttle service consists of only one van and is not likely to expand much in the next year. If the UA Safety Committee had not decided to study the issue last year, it is doubtful that there would even be one van now.
It's time for the Institute to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to student safety. The Institute's Campaign for the Future has raised $612 million over the past four years, and if safety were as high a priority as research, new classrooms and new housing, it would spend some of that money for "A Safe Ride." If MIT were truly committed to student safety, it would not see funding for the shuttle service as an either/or situation; it would find the money to spend. An expanded shuttle service is a sound investment which the Institute cannot afford not to make.
MIT can best serve its commitment to safety on campus by expanding "A Safe Ride" into a fleet of more than two vans. Students' safety interests can not be served without a larger number of vans.