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Provide services to ease city commute

By Andrew Elmers

Section: Opinions

January 22, 2016

With the start of a new semester, new challenges arise. Besides the new classes I’m enrolled in, I also have to figure out a way to make it into Boston for an internship I have two days each week. Luckily for me, I have a car and easy access to local MBTA stops so I can take the most convenient route. Instead of using the commuter rail stop next to campus and making a litany of transfers, I can drive to the Riverside terminal of the Green Line and take that all the way into the city. It’s extremely convenient, but with the “Check Engine” light popping up yesterday while looking for a parking spot, my worst nightmares might be realized.

I love my car, but it isn’t the most reliable machine out on the road. I’m constantly worried that it will break down, and the repairs would be more costly than the actual value of the car. I would then be stuck and unable to get to my internship or get home over break. There would still be ways of solely using public transport to get around, though it would be nice if there was easier access to the Riverside terminal from Brandeis.

A few years ago, when I first came to Brandeis, the Student Union offered a shuttle service to the Riverside Terminal of the Green Line in Newton on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. However, that is no longer the case according to the Brandeis shuttles webpage. I don’t know exactly when the service was discontinued. The Riverside shuttle service was offered in the Spring 2015 semester, since Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan mentioned that the service was suspended due to weather in an email on Jan. 24, 2015.

I never heard that the shuttle service on Saturdays was canceled; perhaps I overlooked an email last semester. Either way, the proximity of the Riverside Terminal (it is only a 10 minute drive by car) creates an opportunity to provide a very useful shuttle service, at least for those commuting.

Most likely the original service was stopped because not enough students took advantage of it, I’m assuming. Running between 2 and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays probably did not draw the largest crowds. A shuttle service offered to commuters—students, faculty and staff—on weekdays during rush hour could draw much more interest. If anything, it would provide an alternative to the commuter rail station next to the club fields. Last Spring semester after one of the blizzards, a professor of mine had to cancel class because he commuted on the Fitchburg Line, which was closed because of the conditions. While I don’t recall the accessibility of the Green Line that day, another option could only have helped the situation.

Currently, there are only two ways for community members to use public transportation to commute in and out of the city—the commuter rail and the 553 express bus stop next to the train tracks—none of which are offered by the university. There are numerous shuttles on the weekends, but none offered for commuters. The weekend shuttles are useful, but in order to better assist the community, there must be some sort of commuter shuttle service to either Riverside Terminal or Harvard Square (or both). Students with unpaid internships, adjunct professors and staff members making their way to and from the city deserve more support from the university in their efforts to either come in for work, or further their education.

These shuttles don’t even need to be offered forever at set times. If a survey were to go out to determine what times were best for people and where they need to be picked up each semester, that might work. Though if there was extreme interest, the schedule might become too complicated and the costs of the shuttle would likely be too high to be feasible.
Yet in our university’s ongoing efforts of improving our sustainability, more communal transportation will only help. Be it through an actual commuter shuttle to high-traffic public transit stops, or simply an easy method to create carpools and rideshares, much more can be provided to the community at large. But for now, I’ll continue to hope my car turns on each morning.

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