Improving Shuttle Service

Letter to the Editors

To the editors:

Harvard University Transportation Services recognizes the important service we provide to the University community, especially when concerns about safety as well as the bitter cold weather make it imperative that our service operate reliably and on time. We are taking every measure possible to ensure  that. As with any transportation service, occasionally there are circumstances that are beyond our control, such as weather and unusual traffic conditions, which affect our on-time performance. Because we take this seriously, all of our drivers are required to keep logs of all runs so we can identify problems and correct them as soon as possible.

I am aware that there have been some occasions during the primary morning runs between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. at the Quad when a shuttle bus has departed a bit ahead of schedule. However, this only happens if the bus is already completely full and when the driver is assured that another bus will arrive soon after.

We have also looked into the specific incident mentioned in the Crimson’s story (News, “Shuttles Strand Students Despite 24-Hour Pledge,” Jan. 14) regarding the student waiting for a shuttle at 4:30 a.m. We found that the driver involved at that time inappropriately chose to leave his regular route in order to change the vehicle he was driving. Although well intentioned at the time, it was an incorrect decision that has been addressed and corrected internally.

I, and my staff in Transportation Services, sincerely appreciate feedback we receive from students, and your ideas have been very helpful to us in improving transportation service to the University community. Feedback from everyone is welcomed at shuttle@harvard.edu. All comments are reviewed by the General Manager and Operations Manager of Transportation Services and me personally, and are responded to within 24 hours. (We also ask that correspondence include a contact e-mail and/or phone number so that we can address any urgent issue immediately.)

Recently we have seen a significant increase in van ridership, especially in the evening.  We are glad to see the community utilize our services, and, even with this increase, our evening van service is able to pick-up callers within an average of 20 minutes and most calls within 45 minutes. In addition, our call back service to let riders know exactly when the van will arrive has been very well received. This allows students to wait for rides in a secure environment.

In light of some of the recent feedback we have received from students, we are implementing the following changes immediately.

For the foreseeable future, after the evening van service ends at 3 a.m., all calls received at the van service number (617-495-0400) will be forwarded to staff at the University Operations Center to help anyone in need of emergency transportation assistance.

Shuttle bus clock times, which were being checked once per day, will now be checked three times per day to make sure they are consistent with the official U.S. time. You can find our clock time on the web at: http://www.uos.harvard.edu/transportation/shu.shtml.

All drivers have been instructed to wait one minute beyond their scheduled departure time at all stops to assist students who are reasonably on time. The one exception will be during our peak morning times when busses are full and no additional passengers may safely be accommodated.

Please be assured that all of us in Transportation Services continue to work closely with the Harvard University Police to create a safe environment for the Harvard community. We sincerely hope that these changes will help improve our service and we continue to welcome your feedback.

JOHN NOLAN

Jan. 17, 2004

The writer is director of Harvard University Transportation Services.