Be better, BranVan

Sasha Skarboviychuk 

We are approaching winter in lovely, warm Massachusetts, and although it is just the end of November, it is already freezing cold outside. You know what’s the last thing I want to do in this weather? Take a twenty minute walk to get to my classes. But wait. Thankfully, Brandeis has Waltham shuttles that pick up students, right? Wrong. 

My despise for the BranVan started a few weeks ago, when I decided to take the Waltham BranVan for the first time. Being the responsible Brandeis student I am, I looked up the schedule of the daytime van, found the closest stop to my house and got to the stop ten minutes early to make sure I didn’t miss the bus. I do not know if getting there so early was a good idea because I got really cold while waiting. Then finally, I saw the bus coming my way. And then I watched as the bus drove past me without even stopping at any of the stops on South Street. 

I was confused to say the least. I talked to my friends who told me that I need a reservation for the van and called the number to reserve a seat. When someone finally picked up, all that was said to me was “it starts at four,” and then the person hung up the phone. I was even more confused at this point. 

So just standing at the stop doesn’t work, but you do not need a reservation to get on the bus? The next time I tried to take the van, I made sure to wave and yell so the driver noticed me. But guess what? I was left walking in the cold. Again. Unfortunately, this keeps happening to me, so the next time I am going to try to catch the BranVan, I will make a sign asking the driver to stop. Maybe that will work. 

On a more serious note: What kind of service is this? To all the people that will say “you should appreciate that Brandeis even does this and blah blah blah,” that really doesn’t matter because I cannot access this basic service. If the drivers are unable to notice students standing there, then they should be required to stop at every stop on the map. Is that inconvenient? Yes. But will that assure that everyone will get on the van? Yes. Or make a system that will allow students to request for a van to stop at a certain stop for pick up. Do something to improve the current system, please. Or make a reservation system for the daytime van as well (I myself have not had the pleasure of taking the evening van, but hopefully that system works better).

Emma Lichtenstein 

Thankfully, the Brandeis campus is pretty small. Even going from the Mandel Quad to IBS isn’t that bad of a walk, even in the snow. However, the schlep to Waltham is one I absolutely don’t want to do in the cold or after dark. The Waltham van is supposed to be a reliable way to get back and forth from campus to the city, but it’s iffy at best. 

Reservations are apparently not a guarantee. I’ve always been skeptical of the BranVan, preferring to walk, but I finally decided to give the shuttle a try and made a reservation for myself and two of my friends. However, when I told the driver that they were waiting in lower campus, I was told that if the bus filled up, then they would have to find other transportation to Waltham. Sure enough, a surge of students tumbled into the car, meaning my friends had to take an Uber to dinner. 

Maybe the mistake was on my end? Maybe I made the reservation incorrectly? However, there is essentially no information on how the BranVan works! The operator was nice enough on the phone but offered no guidance on how to properly make a reservation. I thought I had done the right thing, the operator even confirmed the names, but my friends were left stranded at the bus stop.

I watched in dismay as we drove away from my friends who watched the bus leave with nasty looks on their faces. For some reason, this delighted the other passengers on the van, causing them all to mock their struggle and laugh at them. I know this isn’t the driver’s fault, but come on, Brandeis, be better. Laughing at others for literally no reason? Congrats, you walked up to Usdan and they didn’t; that doesn’t make you a superior human being. Hurray, you saved the five bucks on an Uber, and they didn’t. Like, who cares?

While they were in their Uber, I was on the BranVan, alone and afraid. I had no idea how this thing worked, and clearly these other passengers were not going to help me. I watched as the driver blew past stop after stop; I’m not even sure if he looked to see if there were students in need of a lift. Sure, every seat in the van was full, but how hard is it to roll down a window to let the students know instead of just leaving them in the dust. 

Finally, at about the stop before mine, I heard someone call out to the driver to stop the van so they could get out. Right after that, I called out my stop, but I had to call it out twice because the music was so loud that the driver couldn’t hear me—or maybe he just chose not to acknowledge me. I guess I’ll never know for sure. 

That was the only time I’ve ever successfully ridden a BranVan, and even then it was an absolute mess. Though, to be fair, I’ve only ever tried three times after all of the other horror stories I had heard about it. 

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