New bus schedule compromises service to Boston
Students feel the crunch of Senate schedule changes
Published: Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 12:11
The new Senate bus schedule has been the source of extra fees and headaches for Boston and Cambridge-bound Wellesley students. Last year's weekend bus route made regular stops in Boston and Cambridge starting at 8 a.m. and running every hour until the early morning. Due to budget cuts, the Senate bus schedule has been reduced to a roundtrip shuttle service to the Riverside T-stop from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. Now only at 6 p.m. does the familiar route around MIT and on Commonwealth Avenue ensue.
These changes are an extension of last year's scaled-back service. Returning students recall when the Senate bus itinerary became more limited, with buses before 9 a.m. and after 12 a.m. cut altogether, and when the fare increased from two to three dollars per token. The new Senate bus schedule of reduced stops is a reflection of the smaller budget confronting the college administrators.
"Funding for the Senate bus was cut by 20 percent," Director of Housing and Transportation Peter Eastment said. Furthermore, this new schedule is to be considered a permanent measure and not a temporary scheduling arrangement.
Students are finding that the budget cuts are coming directly at the expense of their wallets. Now in addition to the increased three dollar fare, students shell out a subway fare and sometimes even cab fare to get back to campus.
The inconvenience causing more headaches, however, is the lengthy time it takes to reach the city. Students have observed that the bus takes a roundabout route to get to Riverside, rather than going directly down Washington Street. Although many theories have been circulated about this circuitous ride, Eastment verified that the reason behind it is that "there are sections of Route 16 or Washington Street that are closed to commercial vehicles."
When asked about whether or not they have heard of prominent student complaints, Eastment confirmed that he has heard about "the additional time it takes to reach Boston—students lead very busy lives and factoring in additional time is an adjustment."
Stories of scheduling mishaps and lengthy transportation time due to the Senate bus have long been common, but this year they have proliferated to an even greater degree. Sheena Davis '11, who got on the 3 p.m. bus to get to a 5 p.m. meeting at MIT, said, "Two hours to get to MIT is ridiculous! And I was rushing to get there on time nonetheless getting to MIT involved the Wellesley bus, the T and another bus. That sounds excessive for what should be a 30-minute trip. That also means paying three times as much just to get to my destination." Her advice for students trying to navigate the new schedule: "The days of sneaking back early in the morning are gone! Definitely think your trip through in advance and leave at least two hours for travel."
Students attending religious services have also found their options limited by the later departure times of the weekend commuter rail and the Senate bus.
"It takes me an hour and a half to two hours to get to church," Marianne Xu '11 said. "And it costs me eight dollars instead of four to get to and from church on Sundays. All of my friends who go to church on Sundays have been greatly affected financially and time-wise.
"When the buses started running later, it has felt like our religious rights have been neglected for the sake of saving money for the college, and it just doesn't align with the college's love and advocacy of respect of students' values and beliefs."
Hannah Yang '11 said, "In order to guarantee that I'm not late [for services at 2:00 p.m.], I need to take the 12:00 p.m. bus from Wellesley to Riverside, and then the T from Riverside to Arlington takes me approximately 50 minutes to an hour. Right after my church service is over, which is around 3:30 p.m., I rush to get back on the T so that I can hopefully catch the 4:30 bus at Riverside." Yang had to take a cab back to campus twice to make a Sunday evening meeting, after missing the 4:30 bus by just a couple of minutes.
"I find the new bus schedule to be extremely inconvenient, time-consuming and somewhat expensive," Yang stated, pointing out the expenses of bus tokens, T fare and cab fare. "I find myself rethinking whether or not I should even go to church on Sundays because of it."
"Buses should not be leaving before the scheduled departure times from any stops," Eastment said. He has reinforced the policy with the college's vendor, Peter Pan Boston, and encourages students with any concerns or suggestions to email him directly or the FirstClass Transportation Conference. He will bring all student feedback to the Transportation Advisory Committee monthly meetings.