Speaking up on campus transportation concerns

A Case Western Reserve University student experience often looks a little like this: Students are standing outside at 9 p.m., many snowy blocks from their dorm building. They could try to wait for a Greenie—they reject that idea immediately, thinking that they would wait far too long only to risk the bus rushing past them without stopping.

Next, they think of Safe Ride, but stop short of calling when they remember friends’ stories about waiting for hours only to give up and walk home. So, that’s just what the students do: give up and walk home anyway. While students may not want to risk the trip, there comes a point of diminishing returns when students just start hoofing it, especially since it may be safer to set out for their destinations than to wait in a possibly unsafe place to be picked up.

It seems to be a system that is in dire need of a repair. But Vice President for Campus Services Richard Jamieson doesn’t see this obvious dissatisfaction from the campus community. He is optimistic and emphasized that a lot of progress has been made towards fixing campus transportation.

For instance, Jamieson said that this winter, a new morning Greenie was added, running from north to south campus, and there is another all-day Greenie that runs when temperatures reach below 15 degrees. He also noted that the frequency with which the Nextbus app is intended to update has been increased from once a minute to once every 15 seconds.

Jamieson said that according to Nextbus, Greenies are running on schedule the majority of the time. We’re not sure if we buy this as we’ve experienced “five-minute” waits frequently turning into 10 or 15.

The reported winter reforms to campus transportation extend to Safe Ride as well. CWRU has added a new Safe Ride vehicle during peak hours, from 7 p.m.-11 p.m., bringing it to a total of four Safe Rides in circulation during that time. According to Jamieson, Safe Rides aim to have students wait for 15 minutes or less; he cited that less than 20 percent of students wait for more than half an hour for their Safe Rides. Our own experiences and our frostbitten fingers beg to differ.

It is important to note that these are not necessarily criticisms of Safe Ride—or Greenie, for that matter—drivers. As with any other job, these vehicles are driven by a usual range of people, some of them fantastic, others less so. But it is not human resources which this editorial aims to critique, but the system in which these drivers and students are all doing their best.

Safe Ride, for example, has a maximum of four vehicles running at any given time, as noted above. Each of these vehicles could realistically carry four people, apart from the driver, at a time. Hence, a maximum of 16 students out of a campus of 5,000 can be driven to safety at a time. It would be hard for any driver who is not close, personal friends with The Flash to keep up with the demand on their service.

Why don’t we add more? Or better yet, wouldn’t just bigger cars be a worthwhile investment? Maybe pair that with a “shortest route” type of software, and students will go from being frustrated, targets-of-attack, to safe, happy individuals.

On the topic of improving Safe Ride, Jamieson said that Campus Services is making efforts to implement a tracker which could update students on the estimated time of arrival of their Safe Rides in response to student requests.

Still in the research and development stages, a tracker system possibly run through the CWRU Shield app is expected to go into effect late this semester or in the next fall semester.

At least this is an indication that campus services is listening to student feedback. This then begs the question of why they can give such a positive report of campus transport, when the majority of students’ impressions are as negative as last year’s polar vortex temperatures.

There is a simple explanation for this: Their impressions differ from students’ impressions, because students aren’t sharing theirs—at least not along the right channels. Rather than griping to their friends, students should instead channel their complaints more productively.

When asked where students should direct their feedback, Jamieson was offhand in his response: “Well, they can call me.”

Aside from this openness to feedback, he also noted some other means by which students can register their complaints, including Campus Services, Access Services, Bus Buzz or Standard Parking, the company which operates Safe Ride.

Campus Services, in turn, should make greater use of the university resources available, using creative solutions to solve some frustrating problems.

For example, what would it look like if the computer science department along with Think[box] sponsored a contest to develop a cheap tracking app? Could we use advanced metrics to analyze wait times and how to run transportation more efficiently.

Sure, we should put more money into transportation, but we don’t need to just throw money at the issue. Let’s think outside the box and be ahead of the transportation curve.

We’re a cutting edge university. With some work, we can be in terms of transportation as well.