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What I wish I knew: transportation woes

One of the many perks of Brandeis’ campus is its unique personality. Whether it be the woodsy, nature feel, iconic castle or modern buildings, the blatant lack of a cohesive aesthetic is one of this campus’ most amiable, quirky qualities. Aside from Brandeis’ lovable looks, it is on the outskirts of one of the most vibrant, youthful and opportunity-ridden cities in the United States.

Boston is a great college and post-college social hub to get to know other young adults, expand interests and try new things. Let’s not forget about all the four-star rated restaurants, movie theater and the famous Lizzy’s Homemade Ice Cream, all conveniently located right in our neighborhood. Waltham provides a quick escape from campus that is often vital to students’ sanity.

Recently, my friends and I wanted to go into Waltham to check out Moody Street and catch a movie. As the BranVan grumbled to a stop, it wasn’t until we began to shuffle in that we realized there was not enough room for all of us.

The driver asked if we made a reservation and we all stared back at him wide-eyed, obviously confused. With the empathy of a New York cab driver, he told us to get off and make a reservation. Taken aback by the blunt, unexplanatory encounter, we resorted to Google to find an answer.

After one of my friends found the phone number of the BranVan, I called the operator to make a reservation. Less than pleasant is an understatement in describing my phone call. The operator was easily frustrated and lacked patience for clarifying questions. We hung up without making a reservation and when I tried to call less than three minutes later, the call remained unanswered. After waiting five minutes, I called back and was greeted by the same silent fate.

Brandeis advertises the vast and amazing transportation systems offered on and off campus. However it is never discussed how to properly utilize them. As I finish my first month of Brandeisian life, I have definitely learned these lessons the hard way.

Brandeis has a student-run Campus BranVan service that acts as a shuttle around campus. Operating from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Monday to Friday and from noon to 2:30 a.m. on weekends, this service could save you from the bitter winter snow or from the daunting distance it takes to cross campus. Its ultimate purpose is convenience and it excels in such. There is also a daytime shuttle that drives to Charles River apartments from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and a daytime Waltham shuttle that drives a 40 minute route 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Traveling outside Waltham, many students use the Boston/Cambridge shuttle that leaves from Usdan Student Center and travels to Harvard Square in Cambridge, with a final stop in central Boston at the intersection of Marlborough and Mass Ave. It operates from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Thursdays, 12:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Boston public transportation is always another alternative. While Brandeis services are free of charge and relatively simple, public transportation is a bit different. There is a travel fare and no one to tell you the best routes to take. Not to mention, Uber is always an option. It is admittedly more expensive but always more convenient.

There is also the evening Waltham BranVan, the system I originally tried to use. After that frustrating, Waltham-less evening, I further researched the evening BranVan and found a great website that holds all of Brandeis’ transportation information.

If first-years were not going to be verbally informed about the transportation, the least that could have been provided was the fact that if “Brandeis transportation” was typed into Google a multi-faceted webpage with various links would emerge. Perhaps researching more about transportation was intuitive for a couple of you, yet when the BranVan was spoken about by upperclassmen, Orientation and Admissions, I never was told that a reservation was necessary for entry.

In fact, all I saw was students who merely walked up the steps of the van and were whisked away; how was I supposed to know that it was not as easy as that?

Ever heard the statement, “there’s an app for that?” Well, Brandeis transportation is no different. Brandeis uses a helpful app called “Rider” that tracks the shuttles’ locations and provides stop locations. Some other apps I found useful are the Uber app and Boston T Map app that has train times, stations and routes.

For those who live in other states and want a cheap way of driving home, check out Go Bus. I went back home to New York for Rosh Hashanah and used Go Buses to commute there and back. Unlike a costly flight or Amtrak ticket, Go Buses was $30 and an extremely easy trip. I would highly recommend downloading their app, which is an easier way to track times and purchase the ticket.

Ultimately, the transportation options are plentiful here at Brandeis. Although it would have been nice for us first-years to have gotten a crash course in how to get around, we will undeniably learn the ways of travel at Brandeis.

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