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We’ve all been there: waiting outside in a below zero wind chill for a Saferide shuttle that was scheduled to arrive ten minutes ago. We ponder the possibility of just walking, but quickly abandon the idea because of the time already sunk waiting. You try to call Shuttle Track, but that system is unreliable at best. Guess you are just going to have to suffer. Along with dining, it seems that Saferide improvements are a perennial issue here at MIT, but improvements to Saferide — largely the results of student input — over the summer have vastly enhanced our ability to get around campus.

Whether it is your daily commute over the river, a weekly trip to your favorite fraternity party, or just an occasional jaunt into Boston, Saferide is often a major concern because it affects so many students. Created as a mechanism to ensure the safe passage of Boston sorority girls to and from campus, Saferide has essentially become an entitlement service. That sentiment is the reason that you will generally hear people complaining all over campus about the shortcomings of Saferide.

Let’s be clear: Saferide will not routinely be on time. There are just too many factors: Kenmore construction, Red Sox games, and Boston West trying to run a forty minute route in a half hour are a few examples. I mean getting public transportation to run on time is typically a frivolous effort (see the Number 1 bus). It seems the best that we can do is track Saferide, so everyone can at least make an informed decision. A few years ago, enough students got together to implement the Shuttle Track system, which was apparently somewhat successful for a little while before the tracking units stopped functioning. A resurgence of recent interest in Saferide has resulted in the NextBus system (www.nextbus.com). The website is extremely useful and with the trend of easy web mobile browsing, a la iPhone, it is easier than ever to determine the exact position of the Saferide shuttle. It also has a similar callable status like Shuttle Track did. Hopefully access to this information will allow students to make better Saferide decisions.

Another student championed idea that took effect this summer was the time staggering of the Boston East and West shuttles. Boston West now runs on the 15’s and 45’s while Boston East runs on the hour and half hour. This allows students that just want to get across the Harvard Bridge the ability to do so every fifteen minutes. Since a good fraction of students get off at the first stop, this increase in shuttle availability is a major step forward.

To many, Saferide seems far from perfect, but the truth is that much of this lies in perception. We now have the ability to track any of the Saferide shuttles in real time on our cell phones. You can make sure that there is enough time to grab an Anna’s burrito or that pset you forgot without missing the next Saferide shuttle. There is not much more that the Saferide office could do to ensure better service. Next issue: Biodiesel shuttles.

Mike Bennie ’10 is the Undergraduate Association Vice President.