“We have four new [SafeRide] buses coming off the assembly line,” Lawrence R. Brutti, operations manager for the Parking and Transportation Office, said in the Aug. 28, 2007 issue of The Tech. Almost two months later, I have to ask: where are they? This question is by no means trivial: the inefficiency of SafeRide affects the bulk of the student body.
Tech Shuttle, which serves primarily on-campus residents, has large new buses, runs on time, and has a functional tracking system. Students can call a tracking service or check a Web site in order to determine where along the route the shuttle is. Conversely, SafeRide, which serves residents who live off-campus, has small old buses, is perpetually late, and can never be tracked. As evidenced by the success of Tech Shuttle, the administration has the resources to modernize the SafeRide system; however, they are neglecting to do so. Do they consider off-campus residents to be second tier students, or are they truly ignorant of the issues plaguing the student body?
The problem behind SafeRide is straightforward: the combination of small buses which commonly force drivers to leave students standing at stops and a dysfunctional tracking system render the shuttle system useless to students. It has been clear for several years that the system needs to be revamped, yet the administration seems to miss the point. No changes have been made to the system despite a number of complaints on the part of the student body.
Meanwhile, the Undergraduate Association has proven ineffective in solving the problem, as the solutions they propose are too complicated.
The solution to the SafeRide problem is extremely simple: one new bus. One Tech Shuttle bus could run all of the daytime Boston shuttle, as the bus has a significantly higher capacity and can be tracked. In addition, this bus could be used on the crowded Boston West SafeRide route after 6 p.m. This modification would obviate the need for several new buses and a dramatic shift in routes, as it would accommodate the bulk of the peak morning hours of SafeRide.
The administration has made a new commitment to convert SafeRide shuttles to use biodiesel fuel. While the movement towards a green campus is laudable, there is little to be gained from building on a system in complete disarray. The problem at hand is not emissions but rather convenience. Students face the real and immediate problem of getting to class in the morning. The added confusion of a transition to biodiesel will further complicate an already dysfunctional transportation system. Unfortunately, in this case, it seems that the Institute is more concerned with its outward energy-saving appearance than it is with the functionality of its campus.
Moreover, the UA has recently been pushing for the development of a new “bridge shuttle,” the sole purpose of which will to be to service the Harvard Bridge. However, the UA has made no visible progress on the issue, as complex solutions have proven impossible to implement. The organization of a bridge shuttle would require either the introduction of a new SafeRide route or a dramatic change in one of the two current routes. Introducing a bridge shuttle would require hiring new drivers as well as buying new buses while altering a current route would leave some students without access to SafeRide. The UA should be focused on fixing the system as it currently stands rather than adding another shuttle which will be burdened by the same problems that hamper the current shuttles — capacity and an inability to be tracked.
The problem and solution to the issue of SafeRide are simple. While reorganizing routes and introducing new shuttles may be promising long term solutions, the system is currently in need of a quick fix.