The BranVan’s problems are unacceptable and easily fixable
There’s a lot to dislike about Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Aside from generally being an unpleasant person, he invented modern fascism, killed thousands of dissidents in horrible ways and fought on Hitler’s side in World War II. Nonetheless, it’s widely stated that he made the trains in Italy run on time, which apparently makes up for all of that.
I often find myself thinking about this aphorism while I wait at the Admissions stop for the BranVan.
I use the BranVan every day to get to class. I live around two miles off campus; I used to have a bike, but it’s been broken for several months, and biking while it’s snowing isn’t something I’d recommend for the faint of heart. An Uber ride to Brandeis typically costs between $5 and $7, which most people can’t afford on a daily basis. For me, the only other option is to walk. On account of BranVan problems, I’ve done a lot of walking in the past month.
For the purpose of this article, I’m talking about the Waltham BranVan, which is the one I have the most experience with. There are two different routes; the morning one, which is run by Joseph’s Transportation, and the evening one, which is run by Brandeis. The morning bus has been late before — eighteen minutes once, making me late for class — but incidents like these are the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time, the Joseph’s Shuttle is where it’s supposed to be within five minutes, and it’s never too full to refuse anyone. With the Waltham BranVan, by contrast, your results will vary wildly depending on the time and place.
Before and after most classes get out, when things aren’t as busy, the bus usually leaves Brandeis at the right time. However, from 5:00 p.m. until around 8:00 p.m. in the evening, things are extremely chaotic. The bus starts at the Rabb steps, which at rush hour always has more people than it can hold. Because the Rabb steps are the first stop on the route, the people there get first crack at the bus; those who wait at Admissions, as I frequently do, are perpetually screwed over. Frequently, the full BranVan blasts right past Admissions without so much as a warning to the people waiting on the curb. If we’re lucky, another van comes — after an unanticipated ten minutes or so of additional waiting. If we’re not, the driver forgets or neglects to call a second van in, or the second van is unavailable anyway. I once had to wait an hour to go home because the 5:00 p.m. van was full, no backup was called, and there is no 5:30 p.m. run.
All of this would be better known if the shuttle trackers were turned on or working, which they almost never are; this way, people would at least know if no backup was on the way. Instead, we’re left guessing. In the same vein, if there are service issues — a flat tire, for instance — there’s no way to notify the people waiting.
Finally, I’m deeply dissatisfied with the reservation system. Perhaps I’m acting entitled, but I think that I have a right to expect my shuttle service to work the way it should without me having to call in ahead to ensure it does.
The fact is that these concerns aren’t new. There have been — — dedicated to them from as early as 2011, which ought to be a clear sign that complaining in broad, general terms won’t convince the administration to improve service. If the BranVan is going to improve, we need to have a concrete plan for how to improve it, and we need to be able to create that change in the Student Union.
On the first count, the obvious remedy to this is to put more shuttles into service, perhaps having two running Waltham BranVans or more on peak hours — one at Rabb and one at Admissions, to serve both evenly — with the option to call in more if necessary. This would be expensive, but it would do actual good to the Brandeis community. Do we still have the receipts for the pianos?
On the second, it’s necessary to target complaints and suggestions specifically towards the Student Union, because they actually have the power to enact changes. Fortunately, this past week, I was elected to the Union — bribes are payable in cash or Venmo, by the way — and I’m on the Campus Operations committee, which theoretically oversees the BranVans. Any of you who have comments on the shuttle service are welcome to come to our meetings, which are from 6-7 p.m. on Mondays. If you’d rather not come in person, I’m collecting complaints, so you’re all encouraged to share horror stories with me; my email address is email@example.com.
This is a simple enough problem. We shouldn’t need a Mussolini to fix it for us.