Columns

Isman ’15: Why the Brown University Shuttle route should be less strict

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Opinions Columnist

While many of us only really use Brown University Shuttle when it’s too cold or rainy or snowy outside, the real purpose of the circulating buses does not go unnoticed. Their purpose is to provide safety, especially when it’s dark out and students need to travel far distances. But BUS functions on a very specific route, and at times this route functions as a hindrance rather than a safety measure.

Last year I was walking to catch a BUS near Lloyd Street, and I stopped to ask one of the guards where the nearest BUS stop was. He told me the nearest one was a couple blocks away but that he would try to stop one for me on that corner. As I got in the BUS, the driver told me I was lucky her supervisor wasn’t around, because otherwise she would have gotten in trouble for stopping.

This defeats the purpose of BUS. Isn’t the whole point of having these buses on rotation that if someone is walking alone at night and doesn’t feel safe, he or she should be able to get on it regardless of location? The driver also informed me that she knows it’s against the rules, but if she ever sees a student walking down the street late at night alone, she will always stop and ask whether the student wants to get in.

I don’t know if the rules have changed from that moment to now, but that particular BUS driver’s attitude should be BUS’s attitude as a whole. BUS shouldn’t only be safe when you’re somewhere close to a stop.

I understand that BUS is not supposed to be a personal taxi service. On the other hand, if the main concern with the regular BUS is that it is supposed to continue on its loop, then why should it not stop for students walking along this loop?

BUS does have Brown onCall, which should solve most of the problems of not being able to catch it at one of its stops. It’s especially convenient and safe for students living off campus and does not take long to arrive. However, Brown onCall cannot be called if you are on campus and super close to a BUS stop. And while I hope that catching BUS a block from where you are would not matter, we all know that if we feel scared or unsafe at night, that block can make a difference.

Granted, there are many other methods students can use if they are feeling unsafe. It’s true that it is very common to be walking alone at night and be approached by SafeWalkers to ask if we would like to be accompanied home. Similarly, campus is filled with blue light phones that can — and should — be used in an emergency. However, it seems that if the shuttles are making rounds, and their purpose is to pick up students and drop them off safely, then they should be doing exactly that.

Students should know that for the most part BUS will stop at its designated stops. Additionally, it doesn’t make sense — and defeats the purpose of the BUS that goes on a loop as opposed to Brown onCall — for students to be able to ask drivers to drop them off anywhere. But there needs to be an agreement between students and BUS that we will respect the limits of the shuttle if they reach out to accommodate our needs as well.

Maybe the solution to this issue is simply to make the shuttle stop more often. It is possible that this issue could be solved with a greater number of stops along the route. Yet I still believe this doesn’t get to the bottom of the problem. The idea is that students who feel unsafe should be confident that if they try to stop the shuttle to get on, it will stop for them.

BUS should give us the confidence to walk at night and also the confidence to know the University will provide that added safety. Ideally, we wouldn’t need to stop the shuttle between stops. I think most students agree that we have a safe campus, and  — speaking for myself — I feel comfortable walking to the nearest shuttle stop to get on BUS on regular nights. However, I want to know that if I ever find myself between stops and feel unsafe walking down the street, the next shuttle to pass in my direction will stop and pick me up no matter where I am.

 

Sami Isman ’15 can be reached at samantha_isman@brown.edu.