Standing on the corner of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Blvd. on Friday, Sept. 18, a shuttle bus pulled up to the stoplight.
I stood on the side of the street, right over the red dot’s location on the NextBus app. The Observer’s executive editor Mike McKenna stood in the street, waiting to flag down the shuttle bus; in the past, we’d had bad experiences with the bus on Coventry, and we wanted to make sure we would get a ride. It was getting late.
The bus slowed down, and the driver motioned forward, pointing to a different stop. Mike and I ran down the road to where she pointed, but the shuttle swerved around us and zipped away, as though it was a cruel prank.
Walking further down Euclid Heights Blvd., Mike and I found the next stop, labelled clearly with a Shuttle sign; one that didn’t exist on the corner by the Grog Shop. The sign was new, navy blue, newly placed by the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) in their latest efforts to help with transportation.
This improvement was needed; the earlier signs were unclear, faded and illegible. Additionally USG has planned monthly meetings with Richard Jamieson, the vice president for Campus Services, to discuss feedback on BusBuzz, the texting app which allows all passengers to voice their feedback. USG also claims to have performed shuttle “audits,” where members drive around to see how the vehicles are doing.
We applaud USG’s changes to the shuttle system, but we still see substantial room to grow, especially when it comes to off-campus stops. A few days after we missed the bus at Coventry Road, Mike and I drove around the routes to compare stops between the downloadable map, the Nextbus app and shuttle signs themselves.
We found that while all on-campus locations are accurate according to the downloadable map and NextBus, off-campus bus stops were hardly labelled. In Wade Oval, none of the stops were labelled with a shuttle sign, in addition to the corner of Coventry Road.
Furthermore we found multiple discrepancies between the downloadable map and NextBus. Bus stops appeared on one version of a route but not the other, and sometimes the locations of stops appeared as though they were functioning, when in real life they are not.
This, we think, is the situation in Coventry—however, there is always the chance that the bus driver was ignorant of the current route. According to USG, complaints of bus drivers driving past students are a regular occurrence, even at stops that are clearly and regularly used on the route.
While on-campus routes are the top priority for a university shuttle system, it can cause some daunting situations if a student attempts to depend on the shuttle system for any significant transportation to an off-campus location. It becomes more immediately dangerous when students aren’t aware of these unspoken updates and attempts to go off of an out-of-date map.
Apps are difficult to keep up with; that is understandable. However it’s easy to post notifications or updates for students to view, stating that certain stops are no longer in service. Currently, this feature is not accessible through the NextBus app.
The shuttle system should be a safer alternative to walking around late at night. However, when buses drive past students without explanation, it increases not only the time that a student spends waiting outside alone, but also their likelihood of walking off-campus alone.
While posting signs on off-campus locations might run into issues with University Circle policies, we at The Observer believe that USG should continue their work by advocating for signs posted at all official stops. To be clear, none of these issues are USG’s fault; the blame fully rests on the department of Campus Services. But USG’s advocacy seems like the only way things have gotten done in improving campus transportation because that office won’t step up themselves.
Additionally we feel it is necessary for all current stops to be labelled correctly on both the app and the downloadable map; in the meantime, accurate notifications should be posted regarding correct stops on all university-run shuttle systems.
Additional reporting by Kushagra Gupta, Opinion Editor and Mike McKenna, Executive Editor.