New shuttle routes see last minute changes
New shuttle routes, already approved by the Institute, were presented to and endorsed by the Student Senate on November 25, and then advertised to the student body. Since then, the routes have been changed twice, both by the Institute and the Facilities and Services Committee of the Student Senate.
FSC Chairperson Nick Dybas first presented the route his committee developed over the last three months on November 25. The routes proposed split the two current loops into three, titled the North, South, and West Loops, and were already approved by the Department of Transportation and Institute to be implemented in January.
The current East Loop was split into North and South loops, and the West Loop remained mostly untouched. The new routes were designed with the intent to create a loop around campus and transfer stops between each route so that students could travel from East to West campus without having to stop at the Union. Each loop was also designed to take under 15 minutes, and overlap with the others on their way to and from the Union.
The Senate discussed the routes at length. Most of the feedback came from the graduate senators, who were concerned with the accessibility of the routes for disabled students and specifically advocated for the creation of a stop at the Winslow building. Graduate Senator Neha Keshan explained that the walk down the Approach to get from the Winslow building to Blitman Commons was not accessible to disabled students or safe during the winter.
Both Dybas and Director of Auxiliary, Parking, and Transportation Services Michael Ramella—who attended the meeting to express his support for the routes—explained that the on-call shuttle program would be expanded to resolve this. The on-call shuttle will now service students who need accommodations, as well as areas not reached by the regular shuttle routes.
Dybas also expressed that concerns like this would have been better received during the development of the routes, rather than at the “eleventh hour” when they were already approved to be implemented for the next semester.
After the presentation and discussion, the Senate motioned to endorse these routes and the resolutions passed with a vote of 12-0-5. Four of the five graduate senators in the room at the time abstained from voting, and one voted in favor.
The Graduate Council then met with Ramella outside of the meeting to discuss their concerns, which they didn’t believe had been heard or adequately considered during the Senate meeting. When asked by The Polytechnic, Keshan clarified that during this meeting Graduate Council members advocated only for the addition of a stop at the Winslow Building.
At noon on Monday, changes to the routes were announced by the Department of Transportation to FSC and the Graduate Council. These routes came at the request of Vice President for Administration Claude Rounds, who was concerned about College Avenue’s steep grade. The changes removed the connecting stop between the West and South routes, used Congress Street rather than College Avenue, and added a stop at the Winslow Building.
These changes had not been discussed with either the Graduate Senators or FSC. In response to questioning from The Polytechnic, Dybas confirmed that the first time he had been contacted about any re-evaluation of their approved routes was when they were announced to both groups. According to Graduate Senator Audrey Beard, “The new proposed route is not the route that we had advocated for.”
These changes interrupted the connection of the three loops and removed stops Dybas reported were frequently used by students. Because of this, Dybas continued to discuss them with Ramella and came up with new routes, which are a compromise between the two.
The latest North Loop begins at the Union and heads west down Sage Avenue turning past West Hall. It then heads back east towards the Samaritan Hospital, and up Burdett Avenue to stop at the Colonie Apartments and loop around the RAHPs, Bryckwyck, and Stackwyck. The loop then turns back toward the Union at the Lambda Chi Alpha house behind the East Campus Athletic Village.
From this point, the North Loop overlaps with the South Loop, which heads outward from the Union towards ECAV. The South Loop then turns south, down Sunset Terrace toward Brunswick Road, to stop at the Polytech Apartments and Tech Terrace. The route then heads back to the Union, overlapping with the West Loop, which is heading outward, toward Academy Hall.
The West Loop now heads westward down Congress Avenue rather than College Avenue. It then briefly loops South to turn back onto 6th Avenue to stop at the City Station West apartments and Blitman Commons, where it will no longer loop through the parking lot. The shuttle will instead stop at the bus shelter on 6th Avenue. It then heads back to Sage Avenue, turns briefly down 8th Street to stop at the Winslow Building, and then continues on Sage towards the Union.
These routes were announced by Dybas in an email to the public Senate mailing list on December 12, and have already been approved to go into effect in January by both Ramella and Rounds—the latter of whom has the “final say,” according to Dybas. The Senate-approved routes had been advertised on social media and in posters spread across campus. No public communications were made to the undergraduate student body about the final changes to next semester’s routes, aside from the ability to toggle the current routes to the changed routes on the Shuttle Tracker website. The Graduate Council sent an email to the graduate student body to update students on the changes. Though, the website still shows the old routes on their “Route Changes” page.
Dybas also included in his email, “THERE WILL BE NO MORE MAJOR CHANGES TO THE REGULAR SHUTTLE ROUTES THIS SEMESTER. IF THERE IS ANY ISSUE, IT MUST WAIT UNTIL AFTER THE SPRING SEMESTER TO BE IMPLEMENTED.”
Correction: January 15, 2020
An earlier version of this article said that “all four graduate senators in the room at the time abstained from voting.” However, five graduate senators were in the room at the time—four abstained, and one voted in favor. Additionally, an earlier version said that no public communications were made to the “student body” about the final changes. However, the Graduate Council did send an update email to graduate students. This has been clarified.