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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

An interview with Brandeis’ new transportation manager

A very big proportion of Brandeis students rely on Brandeis-provided transportations for their daily commute: the campus shuttle, Waltham shuttle and Boston shuttle. Since the Boston shuttle accident in Nov. 2022, the Brandeis community has had a higher awareness of the safety of transportation, as well as its timeliness and comfort. How can it be ensured that the students are having the best commuter experience with Brandeis’ transportation service? The Hoot spoke with the new transportation manager, Khaled Nouri, who shed light on his hopes and responsibilities.

Nouri had an extensive background in transportation management and the hospitality industry. Before coming to Brandeis he worked at The Four Seasons Hotel, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern for similar roles. The two keywords he had for his roles were “customer service” and “safety,” which also apply to his goals at Brandeis. “Whether you’re an engineer, a pilot, whatever you may be, it always goes hand in hand. You always want to deliver the service that you’re rendering, then do it at a hospitable and warm approach,” Nouri explained.

At Brandeis, Nouri’s primary responsibility is to make the passengers arrive at their destinations in a safe and timely manner. Recently, he has implemented a safety training module that goes into components like road rage, speeding and stop signs to create better customer service by showing drivers slides and images. Besides the module, his team also added physical factors to ensure the passengers’ safety, such as increasing the size of the buses. The transportation team is dedicated to make sure the message of “safety first” gets translated to everyone working in the transportation sector, including the vendor and drivers they partner with. Nouri emphasized that he was drawn to set higher standards for the services.

The result of the training turned out well. As the team created a survey to let riders score the drivers, the result showed that the drivers scored above a 90% satisfaction. The team is further dedicated to maintain a consistency of the drivers’ good performance by refreshing their memory with weekly training modules. As Nouri has been working with the public safety department and parking, he gave credit to University Police Chief Matthew Rushton and Campus Operations member Sue Scannell for taking care of the campus.

As the manager of the transportation system, Nouri comes to work early—before the buses start running at 7 a.m.—to make sure they are hitting the road safely. “Can our students get into their classes [on time]? Are there any interruptions in service?” He raised these questions, “but I always come in with, how do we improve safety? How do we improve customer service?” His day always starts with seeing the buses running and picking up passengers seamlessly.

Nouri highlighted some major differences between Brandeis’ transportation system and those of other institutions he has worked for. The biggest difference of Brandeis, he stated, is that there is a stronger sense of community here. “Even if you kind of live off campus, it’s within the surrounding communities [at Brandeis],” he commented. “[At MIT] you had students live next to Fenway, [others] next to Harvard Square, so they have many other tools of getting to school. Biking, right? I don’t see that here, which was kind of a surprise to me. Then you also have the MBTA. You have the red line.” Given the nature of the Brandeis community, more students here are relying heavily on school-provided transportations.

The biggest challenge of Nouri’s job is to make sure passengers get to their destinations on time when there are factors out of his control. As there is only one bus each running the Waltham and campus route in the morning, the issues can get magnified when there is a delay in either of them. “And we are seeing it in our Cambridge shuttle,” he added. “For example, last weekend, there was a protest in Cambridge which caused a major delay. So that’s really the only bus that we have, and students will have to wait for it … but the students don’t know that. They don’t see the bus. ” 

To target these kinds of situations, his best way is to be proactive rather than reactive: “So what we’re doing is to get ahead of it. Let’s find out if there’s gonna be protests next week in Cambridge. Can we find out through some means? And then let’s be proactive in saying, hey, this Friday, expect delays … Every Friday before I go home, the last thing I do on a Friday is meet with the management team and say, okay, here are the things to look out for this weekend. Let’s adjust them. So when we come Monday morning, there’s minimal disruptions.” The biggest challenge he had was the Cambridge route, he explained, because there have always been so many factors out of control.

Even though Nouri has just held this position for five weeks, he is fully aware of the shuttle accident last year, and is dedicated to ensure safety first for all passengers. He highlighted the surveillance of his job: “Besides having security cameras on the bus, they [the drivers] are also getting scored any time there is a hard break. [When] we get an alarm, hey, there is a hard break. Now let’s investigate what is going on. So we go in depth for any small fraction. And these are all designed electronically, plus the items we create and we share with the team.”

Nouri wants the students to know that the Brandeis public safety team has been working extremely hard, and he hopes he can continue the good work. “I’d like for this to be followed by other institutions,” he added. “I want Harvard, MIT, you name it … any prestigious university, to say, ‘okay, what is Brandeis doing? we want to copy something from them.’” 

“There’s a lot of intangible things, if you say, that sometimes hinder our operation. But our efforts are still strong, and our visibility hopefully will be better,” he told The Hoot.

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