University News

BUS OnCall expands service in light of campus crime

A committee may recommend permanently expanding the service if the semester-long pilot is successful

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 10, 2013

Brown University Shuttle temporarily expanded its OnCall service to all students and faculty and staff members living within a designated coverage area beginning Wednesday, wrote Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning, and Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, in a community-wide email.

University Shuttle System, the company responsible for BUS, will contract three new vehicles for use during the experimental expansion, which will last through the semester, said Elizabeth Gentry, assistant vice president for financial and administrative services.

Before Wednesday, BUS OnCall serviced only community members living off campus who had registered through the transportation office, Gentry said.

Students and faculty members will no longer have to register for the service and can now call the OnCall hotline or send a pickup request online, Gentry added.

The OnCall coverage area, which will remain the same as before the expansion, spans College Hill between North and South Main streets and Chase Avenue, as well as the path between main campus and the Alpert Medical School in the Jewelry District. The shuttles’ hours of operation will be from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day until Daylight Savings begins Nov. 3, when the service will be available starting at 5 p.m.

Some students objected to the decision not to expand the coverage area, which excludes all residences on the fixed BUS route.

Waiting outside at night for a shuttle to arrive is problematic, said Ria Vaidya ’16, who lives in Perkins Hall and said she often studies late in the Center for Information Technology — at times until 1 a.m. She said that once after text messaging the BUS phone number, she received a text that no vehicles were en route. But she was not allowed to request a pickup with OnCall because she lives on the fixed route.

“I had to wait for 15 minutes not knowing if anyone was going to pick me up,” Vaidya said. “They better let us use OnCall.”

The pilot expansion is occurring in light of student, parental and community concerns related to campus crime, Gentry said.

“The number of robberies is down from 2012, but there has been concern with the level of violence associated with that number,” Carey said, adding that a recent incident in which a student was seriously injured during a robbery was part of the motivation for expansion.

Tenzin Lama ’16 is currently taking an architecture class at the Rhode Island School of Design that demands “out of the class studio time,” sometimes requiring her to work in a RISD building on South Main Street until 2 a.m. Though she said she often feels “uncomfortable” walking home alone at night, she has previously been unable to use the OnCall service because she lives on campus, in Keeney Quadrangle. She added that she will “definitely” use the service to commute.

Julia Harvey ’14, who lives off campus on Benefit Street, said she has been frustrated with OnCall, namely because of its “inefficiency.” Harvey is a member of two dance companies that rehearse on Pembroke Campus until midnight four nights a week.

She said that though she has used OnCall in the past, the wait times for the shuttle have been lengthy — sometimes up to an hour.

“For me, it’s a 10-minute walk home, so it’s not worth it to wait that long for the shuttle,” Harvey said. “But it’s definitely not the safest situation.”

Harvey added that she hopes the increase in the number of vehicles contracted will decrease wait time for the service.

A campus safety task force headed by Carey and composed of faculty members, undergraduates, graduate students and public safety officials was recently formed and will work toward initiatives regarding campus safety, Carey said. He added that BUS OnCall’s utilization will be a major concern for the committee, specifically if the expanded service is abused.

At the semester’s end, the task force will recommend to President Christina Paxson whether or not she should permanently expand the program.