Yesterday was the debut of the 53rd Street shuttle, the most recent modification to campus transportation options this year. In addition to these changes, Transportation and Parking Services is tracking the usage of the 53rd Street shuttle by requiring individuals to tap their UCIDs when they board, and plans to implement this policy for all routes starting winter quarter. These changes were made in response to surveys administered last year by Transportation and Parking and are designed to address a myriad of concerns, but there are still some that remain unresolved. Transportation and Parking should be commended for its active efforts to tailor its services to students and faculty, but still needs to focus on improving the punctuality and usefulness of its routes.
Changes to the Central and East NightRide shuttle routes took effect September 15 and reflect an openness to feedback, as well as a willingness to adapt the program after a yearlong pilot. The East shuttle’s loading zone has moved to East 56th Street outside Max Central, in order to “ease congestion and pedestrian safety concerns” in front of the Regenstein Library, according to a UChicago News article. The Central route has also been modified to stop at East 60th Street and South Ellis Avenue in an effort to help Broadview students get to Cathey Dining Hall more readily; previously, it did not go south of the Midway. The 53rd Street shuttle will run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and will employ a tap-to-ride system so that Transportation and Parking can track the shuttle’s usage and traffic patterns. The department has continually attempted to address new issues as they arise each year, but several problems persist.
For one, shuttle arrival and departure times are often inconsistent, which can be frustrating for students waiting outside, especially for those without smartphones to access TransLoc. And even for those who have access to it, TransLoc is prone to glitches. Making a concerted effort to ensure that shuttles arrive on time is the ideal solution, but there are other steps that Transportation and Parking can take to improve the shuttle system in the meantime. As we have suggested before, there could be a reverse route for each shuttle to make the ride shorter for those near the end of the loop. And while the 53rd Street shuttle will allow students to access East 53rd Street and Harper Court, it does not run on the weekend when there are fewer daytime transportation options, even though that is the very time when people would be most likely to take advantage of those businesses. While the shuttle also has the potential to provide easy and quick transport to Harper Court in the evening, it does not end up being an incentive to get off campus; students have fewer ways to return to campus after 6 p.m., when the shuttle stops running.
Transportation and Parking has been responding to student input in recent years, a practice that it should continue. However, the department needs to address additional grievances to provide a fully cohesive transportation system, including improving shuttle timeliness and synchronizing nighttime shuttles with their various daytime options. The department has improved its services through past changes, but that’s no reason to stop.
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