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Shuttle Bus Stupidity

By Sarah J. Schaffer

It has happened to me too many times to count. The temperature is 30 degrees or it's raining--too cold or wet to ride my bike--and it's 11 p.m. I'm at Johnston Gate or at the Science Center waiting for the shuttle back to the Quad. I wait until the time the shuttle is supposed to come. No shuttle. I wait ten minutes more. No shuttle.

It's a dilemma: If I try to find a phone inside the Science Center or across the street from Johnston Gate to complain to the shuttle service, the shuttle might come and leave me behind. If I call Harvard's escort service, the controller will tell me to take the shuttle, or that there will be an hour's wait for the escort. So I walk home, cursing the shuttle powers-that-be, glancing behind me at two-minute intervals to make sure I'm not being followed by would-be rapists, and arriving at Currier House 15 minutes later cold, scared and angry.

After a year of fuming in silence, I've started calling the shuttle service every time a shuttle doesn't arrive. The last time I did that. I had been waiting at the Science Center ten minutes after an evening shuttle was scheduled to come. When it didn't. I walked home and called the shuttle service. The operator told me that the driver had reported he had been two minutes late--I had waited for 10 and then decided to walk.

That's not to say that there aren't many friendly, punctual shuttle bus drivers, but the frustrations of no-show shuttles often outweigh the benefits of good cheer.

Aside from the safety concerns--walking down Garden St. by myself at midnight doesn't exactly make me feel secure--"lost shuttles" are a massive waste of everyone else's time. If I know the shuttle won't come, at least I can make alternate plans. But if I wait ten minutes after the shuttle is supposed to come and then walk home, that's nearly a half hour of my time down the drain. Similarly, I could call the revamped SafetyWalk, but after waiting for an absentee shuttle. I just don't have time to wait anymore--and I shouldn't have to.

The nitwit shuttle scheduling makes a bad situation worse last year, when the shuttle service sent out a survey, they received massive complaints about the errata schedule. Still, almost none of the tunes have changed.

Take a look at the gaps. While there are shuttles at 3, 3:12 and 3:20 p.m. from the Science Center to the Quad, there is not another until 4 p.m. Similarly, there are shuttles from Johnston Gate to the Quad at 8:23, 8:33 and 8:45 p.m. and then not another until 9:26 p.m. And on weekends, the shuttles don't even begin running until 11:45 a.m.--long after many people must trek to the Square for appointments or religious services. These shuttle schedules are not made with students in mind.

Call the escort service, some might say. After all, it's open from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Well, I have and I do. But if you call before 10 or 11 p.m., you're more likely to get their voice mail than a human being. If you do get a human being, he or she isn't even allowed to tell you how long it will be--only that you're "fourth in line," which could mean 15 minutes or 45. Or they'll give you a time to dissuade you, as when I called Tuesday night at 8:50 p.m. in the worst rainstorm of the season, and they told me it would be an hour-and-a-half wait. What good is an escort service if it can't provide students with safe, dry rides at the times we need them most?

This year, many administrators are trekking up to the Quad once a week for Administrative Board meetings, held for the first time in Hilles instead of in the soon-to-be-renovated Union. I'm glad they have to walk up to the Quad, because it gives them a taste of what we endure day after day. I'll be even gladder when it gets too cold or snowy to walk comfortably and they must try out the shuttles themselves. I'd be gladder still if they had to wait outside the dark Science Center for shuttles at 11:30 p.m. that never came.

One administrator told me last month that Ad Board members have been "bitching" about the distance. Let them bitch. Since our complaints haven't swayed their opinions, maybe their can experiences will convince them that something must be done.

Sarah I. Schaffer's column appears on alternate Fridays

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