A window into a KSL shuttle driver

Veronica Madell, Staff Reporter

When there are no students riding the KSL Express late at night, Frank Middlebrook cranks up the jazz on his radio and drives the route himself. Born and raised in Cleveland, this city is home to many memories for Middlebrook.

He passes the Wade Park Lagoon, the small scenic center of University Circle, each time drives the route. As a kid, he remembers walking around the lagoon, marveling at the orange fish swimming at the bottom. When no one was looking, he would throw them a handful of his popcorn. Years later, Middlebrook and his nephew do this together, feeding the orange fish in secret. 

He passes Severance Hall, a place he has only gotten to visit during field trips. From all those trips, he remembers staring up at the large ceiling in wonder. 

Middlebrook finds driving peaceful, and has been doing it for almost 20 years. He has only been working at Case Western Reserve University for four weeks, but he thinks that he will be here awhile. He likes the students and the people-watching. He is only curious about why he sees so many of them. He shook his head and said, “They don’t know when to go in, they are out all night.”

While many students wonder about the inner workings of the transportation system at CWRU, Middlebrook provides a window into some of their biggest questions. He explained that whenever the drivers think they need a break they can stop and take one. The drivers radio their break in so that other drivers can cover their route. However, this can often confuse students using the Rider app, as the shuttle on break is not taken off the map. Instead, the app still indicates that the shuttle is coming. In this cold weather, the app can lead to students shivering at bus stops. 

Middlebrook emphasized how important these breaks are to the drivers, especially the late-night ones. 

He explained, “Driving this late at night, sometimes we need that break to keep alert.”

Another student inquiry that Middlebrook was able to provide insight on is the alcohol policy on the shuttles. Earlier this year, students became concerned about a potential new Safe Ride policy, prohibiting students under the influence from riding the shuttles. Apparently, it is not much clearer for the shuttle drivers. 

Middlebrook said that he never received training on what to do if intoxicated students entered his shuttle. When asked what he would do, he shrugged and said, “I guess that’s why I have my radio to call other drivers and the office.” Middlebrook admitted, “I wonder how I would handle it.”

Middlebrook’s response highlights questions about the responsibility of transit drivers. Should they be trained on when to call EMS for intoxication, or is that responsibility not theirs to take on? Middlebrook’s insight into the drivers’ training and knowledge of policies reveals that there still remain many questions on how to navigate drinking and transportation on a college campus. 

For now, Middlebrook has not had to confront this problem. He explained, “So far, students aren’t drinking, just eating. Most people get on my bus with take-out bags.”

When the day ends at 3:30 a.m. for Middlebrook, he heads home to his cat Bosco. He can’t imagine a better ending to any night after a peaceful day of driving around the city he loves than coming home to his cat waiting at the door.