Campus transportation is struggling with communication and timeliness

As The Tartan's News section reports today, students and other members of the university returning this week are being greeted by reworked shuttle and escort routes between campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

We are pleased to see University Police, which runs the shuttle service, and the university administration at large taking an active role in campus transportation. President Jared Cohon discussed the possibility of university-provided transportation to the East End in a meeting with Staff Council in March; the extension of shuttle coverage to Squirrel Hill and eastern Shadyside makes good on that claim. The new C route to Squirrel Hill is a genuine transportation improvement, and we — along with the thousands of students who have been crammed into overcrowded 61Cs — applaud it. However, in the case of the A and B routes, University Police should have left well enough alone.

Posters placed around campus earlier this month grandly advertised “new routes, new times, new stops,” but failed to mention when these major changes would be taking effect. To further confuse matters, new maps and schedules appeared at the Morewood Gardens shuttle stop during graduate student orientation week, but the shuttles continued running on their old routes and times. Presenting conflicting information to thousands of new students is not the best way to say “Welcome to Carnegie Mellon.”

The shuttle extensions have been billed as a service improvement, but that depends on your point of view — or, more likely, your place of residence.

Commuters from eastern Shadyside and East Liberty can now ride campus shuttles to and from their homes, but the consequence is an overall reduction in service for residents in North Oakland, Bloomfield, Friendship, and Western Shadyside. Shuttles that formerly traversed these neighborhoods every half-hour now arrive every 45 minutes except during peak hours, and the drive to campus from the earlier stops can take upwards of 30 minutes. These transportation delays provide a disservice to neighborhoods that are not otherwise well connected to campus by Port Authority bus, whereas much of the new eastern shuttle coverage overlaps with the Port Authority’s 71B and 71D bus routes to Fifth and Morewood.

Although we are thankful for the work being put into the transportation system, serious improvement to the Shadyside shuttle should have increased frequency, not decreased it. And, no matter the service levels, route changes needed to be communicated coherently and correctly.