When we first came to campus, one of the convenient modes of transportation that were presented to us at orientation was the BranVan. While they are definitely beneficial and convenient to students having to run around campus under certain circumstances (especially during the winter months), we think that there are many aspects of the shuttles and BranVans that can be improved upon.
According to the public safety website, there are six different shuttles and vans that run throughout campus during the day. These are the daytime campus shuttle, the campus BranVan, the daytime Waltham shuttle, the evening Waltham shuttle, the Market Basket shuttle, the evening Waltham BranVan and the Boston/Cambridge shuttle. The specific schedules for each of the shuttles can also be found on the public safety website. While we applaud Brandeis for the vast diversity in shuttles that can take you all throughout Waltham, the number of shuttles can be quite confusing for first-years or for students that are not used to taking the BranVan. We have heard several stories of students either missing the BranVan, taking the wrong BranVan and going to a completely different location than what they intended to or completely missing the van. For those who take the BranVan regularly, you might know that to depict where the van is going the driver gives you a hand signal. Although this is convenient for those who take the BranVan, this is a foreign language for some of the first-years and also for those that are new to taking the campus shuttles. One of the solutions that we propose to this problem is bringing back some of the lights on the BranVan that said either “W” or “C,” standing for Waltham or campus. Although this might be a little cryptic in general, we feel that it is a better system than the hand signals.
Moreover, in a previous Hoot article, we discussed how dangerous some of the crosswalks along Brandeis campus are, especially near East Quad. As stated in the article, this is mostly because of the nearby parking spots that obscure the line of sight between the driver and the pedestrian. This only compounds the danger of fast and reckless driving along Brandeis campus, and this is exactly what some of the BranVan drivers do. While walking around campus or while riding in a BranVan, we have found that they often go 40 mph or higher. This is extremely dangerous around Loop Road where students and pedestrians walk across the road, and also in a generally busy area.
While we all appreciate the BranVan, it can be a serious source of stress for students when it should not be. On top of concerns of the van not showing up when expected and not being accurately tracked on the Branda app, the vans are very poorly ventilated. This can cause anxiety for students when the van becomes extremely packed and almost claustrophobic, as well as the general concern of spreading illnesses such as COVID-19 while in poorly ventilated enclosed spaces.
Having a free source of transportation on campus is extremely important to Brandeis students, especially those who live in the Charles River Apartments or off campus. The BranVan is a great resource but it has much room for improvement for both the safety and comfort of students.