The Escort Safety Service, colloquially known as BranVan, is a campus staple, shuttling students around Brandeis’ campus for 16 hours a day: from the crack of dawn to the early hours of the morning. Its operation is essential to the day-to-day life of many students, some of whom live too far to walk to class. In days of extreme weather, the BranVan is an escape from the long campus walk. Sadly, what is offered is not enough.
There are a few thousand undergraduate students who depend on the few BranVans and the Joseph’s shuttles that circulate around campus, obviously too few to have everyone ride when they want to. At peak times you can find scores of students at the Rabb bus stop waiting impatiently as they are unable to board the few and consequently rapidly filled vans and buses. The lack of van availability creates unnecessary consequences, like lateness to classes and other appointments.
Even when one does manage to catch a van or a bus, the prescribed set route unnecessarily delays the trip they take around campus. Those who wish to travel to the Rabb bus stop from H-lot, Spingold and Admissions must ride to Charles River, 567 South Street, Gosman and the Mods before even climbing Loop Road to Rabb. By the time a passenger gets to their destination, they have already lost 15 minutes, which they could have used to just walk to where they need to be. The real situation here is that these excursions to the Charles River and to Gosman areas are time consuming to many, but still required to others who rely on the service to get to the main campus. This issue gets worse when combined with the small fleet of vans and buses, but the combination can also be solved in tandem.
Having worked for BranVan, I can attest that the student employees are some of the best, brightest and most hardworking people around, and the shortfalls of the service are completely out of their hands. In fact, the main issues the Escort Safety Service faces are simply issues of a lack of sufficient van and bus numbers, not a lack of integrity. As the situation is simple, the answer is equally simple.
This year, BranVan added a brand new vehicle to their fleet as a replacement, reflecting the wear that the vans receive over the course of their service. This kind of turnover can easily be prevented with more rest, which can be accomplished with more vans. Coincidently enough, having more vans is the solution to the delays and crowds also plaguing passengers.
Adding two or three more vans to the fleet, perhaps along with more or bigger Joseph’s buses will go a long way toward quelling the groans of the student body. Any costs associated with expanding the fleet would be relatively easily absorbed and dwarfed compared to those of the recent campus upgrades. The university will face these costs in the future anyway as vans turnover and bus service prices rise, so why not reduce the tax on the current fleet?
Increasing the fleet size will allow for less heavy usage on the individual vans during non-peak times, and it will allow for more efficient rides with fewer people left behind during peak times. Also, with an increased van and bus fleet, a set number of vehicles can be designated as Charles River- and Gosman- area routes, lowering travel times for passengers headed for those areas and for those uninterested in making the excursion. By and large, increasing the BranVan and Joseph’s bus fleet size solves a lot of nagging problems facing campus transportation at a reasonable cost.
Although Brandeis is considered a small university relative to other research universities, we still have a several thousand student community. The circulation of campus vans and buses is therefore critical to everyday life at the university and should not be jeopardized as demand for the services fluctuates at peak times or due to weather. If the university is to somehow make transportation around campus easier for everyone, there is no better option that kills multiple birds with one stone than increasing the vehicle fleet size.