Bob M. Moran is the most well traveled man in Cambridge.
Moran is halfway through his eight-hour shift driving the “door to door van.” While students refer to it as “the shuttle,” it’s not to be confused with that other shuttle—the one that goes to un-exotic places like the Science Center, or, say, Dunster.
Tonight, we’re on our way to Inman Square to drop off Rachel S. Bolden ’06. Bolden, whose blockmates live in Currier, uses the shuttle five times a week to travel to and from her off-campus apartment. “I’m always afraid they [the dispatchers] keep your number and say, ‘Oh it’s that girl from Prospect Street again,” Bolden jokes with Moran.
“Nahh!” Moran chides her. “You’re the one who needs it the most because you live so far away!” Moran drops Bolden off at Inman and immediately gets on his radio. “I’m clear, whaddaya got for me?”
Moran is a friendly presence late at night. Though he stands at over six feet tall and weighs close to 300 lbs, he is chatty and always ends a story or statement with a chuckle. As one of the door-to-door van drivers for Harvard’s Transportation Services, Moran makes 50-60 stops a night. He grew up in Cambridge so he knows the streets well—a requisite for a job that involves driving 95 miles a night through city streets. He handles one of the three buses that traverse a sprawling region—spanning from Inman Square to Porter Square to Central Square to Western Ave—nightly from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., seven days a week. “Some people ask me, ‘Who uses you?’ and I say, ‘The same 100 people every night,” Moran says. “I get to know everyone’s name and address.”
Moran picks up Sabrina Zimmerman at the Inn at Harvard. Zimmerman, a Graduate School of Design student, appears exhausted and relieved; she has just defended her dissertation earlier in the evening. After three and a half years of using the shuttle to travel from the School of Design to her Cambridge apartment (a 15-minute walk), she is riding the shuttle for the final time. “It’s a great service that provides safety and warmth, and it gets me home in the middle of the night when I wouldn’t otherwise get there,” Zimmerman says. “I wouldn’t have been able to do the work I did without the shuttle.”
The majority of the shuttle’s customers are graduate students like Zimmerman. The shuttle is also popular with international students, who pass on knowledge of its existence through their grapevine. Moran adds that many Harvard students use it to go to bars or even the supermarket. “People pile in the shuttle when it’s cold out,” Moran quips.
Moran drops off an undergraduate at the Quad. For the students who know about the door-to-door shuttle, it is a great alternative to walking the lonely walk down Garden Street late at night. Many undergrads, however, seem to be unaware of this service. “Freshman year they keep you in the Yard so that you make all these memories and will want to donate money to the University when you get older,” Moran says. “They don’t tell you about things like the shuttle service.”
Moran would like to see the shuttle service expand. “We need to put another one or two vans on the road. Tonight I had seven people on the shuttle and I was still picking up more.” While Moran has complaints, he is still proud of the service he’s able to provide for others. “Management’s mantra is that we’re a safe service, not a fast service,” he says.
The shuttle picks up a student at the Graduate School for Design, who totes a large roll of papers. Moran tells me that there are two big “rushes” of people, one of which is students coming from the design school between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. “These kids are the hardest working students at Harvard,” Moran says. “They are always working on projects late at night.”
There is also typically a large crowd of people waiting at the Kennedy School between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. “The other night I went over to the Kennedy School to pick up one person and I ended up picking up nine,” Moran says with a chuckle.
The shuttle has canvassed Cambridge twice over. As he drops me off, Moran is still chatting me up. What could have been a boring ride was a lively one thanks to him. Even until the last minute, we discuss labor relations at Harvard as they relate to the shuttle service. “You can’t outsource what I do,” he says. “You wouldn’t be able to get the same service.”