HUPD Introduces New Three-Wheeled Patrol Unit

Antonio Coppola

HUPD officers Brian Spellman (left) and Tom F. Karns are aboard the new T3 vehicles, which were recently adopted by the University.

While Harvard Yard has traditionally been home to pedestrians, cars, and wayward bicycles, the Harvard University Police Department introduced a new means of locomotion this spring to the Cambridge and Allston campuses: the T3 Patroller, a three-wheeling vehicle with zero emissions, a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour, battery life for up to 12 hours, and the capacity to captivate throngs of curious passersby.

HUPD currently operates two T3 transports, with 10 to 15 officers volunteering to man the vehicle between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day of the week, according to HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano.

Officer Brian Spellman, one of the officers operating a T3 Thursday, said that the response to the vehicles has been “entirely positive.”

Officer Thomas F. Karns Jr, another T3 driver, agreed with Spellman.

“I have worked here for 11 years, and I have never had so many conversations started by a piece of equipment,” he said. “People just come up to you and want to talk about it. They want to know what it is. They compare it to the Segway.”

HUPD Sergeant Wilmon D. Chipman compared the response to the introduction of the HUPD bike patrol, a program first started in the spring of 1996 and one that continues today.

Despite the enthusiasm surrounding the vehicles, officers noted that the T3s also face certain limitations, particularly in regards to the weather.

“You cannot ride in all conditions,” Chipman said. “Sometimes it gets really slippery.”

In order to drive the T3s, officers must first undergo a mandatory training course that can take up to four hours, Chipman added.

Catalano said that the T3s were bought as part of HUPD’s efforts to become a more environmentally friendly police force. The purchases were sponsored by the Office for Sustainability’s Green Revolving Fund. According to Colin B. Durrant, a spokesperson for the Office for Sustainability, the use of T3s has allowed HUPD to produce “almost zero emissions.”

Durrant said that vehicular change “speaks to both the Chief’s and the Police Department’s leadership, in terms of really taking on the University commitment to [addressing] climate change seriously.”

Officers said that the use of T3s has also made HUPD more accessible to the students and tourists of Harvard Yard, a statement which was supported as a crowd of tourists gathered around the two vehicles early Thursday morning to pose with the officers and take pictures.

While the program has been successful so far, Catalano said that HUPD does not have any plans to expand the number of T3s in the near future. “At this point we really want to run them for awhile and see how it goes.”

—Staff writer Antonio Coppola can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @AntonioCoppolaC.

—Staff writer John P. Finnegan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @finneganspake.