Citing lack of use, school cancels Philly shuttle

The Philly shuttle, which took students from the College into Philadelphia for free, was canceled by Public Safety before the current semester began. No plans are in place to bring it back.

“Currently the plan is to not reinstate the use of the shuttle given the low ridership,” said Gabby Capone ’14, co-president of Student Council (StuCo). “It is unlikely that the shuttle will be running again.”

According to Capone, Public Safety decided to cancel it because, given the low ridership, “the cost per student using the shuttle [was] too high, to continue to run the shuttle.”Alternative routes for students, which include taxis, the SEPTA train and buses, are still available. But many students who have used the shuttle in the past as a means of cheap and convenient transportation to Philadelphia have expressed interest in having the service reinstated.

Stephanie Styles ’14, van coordinator for the College, has been circulating a student survey in order to gauge student responses to the issue.

“I’ve had about 200 responses so far, saying that they’ve used it and want it back,” Styles said. “Through conversations I’ve had a lot of students say that they depend on it and they use it frequently.”

With the termination of the shuttle, three alternative school-funded programs were brought up: increasing funding for the SEPTA ticket program, which lotteries off tokens to interested students, the use of ZipCars and the instatement of a cab voucher program.

“I asked students if they would want to consider increasing the SEPTA program and using ZipCars. But again, students are trying to go out for the weekend — do you want the students to be responsible for driving back?” Styles said. “There was also a discussion, from [Director of Public Safety] Michael Hill, about having a cab voucher program, so if you’re out late at night, the school pays for you to take a cab.”

The funding for the program, which initially was intended to go towards SEPTA tickets or an alternative transportation program for students, was used to fund a new Public Safety position instead.

Vice President for Facilities and Services Stu Hain said that the college is looking for ways to better fund student transportation into Philadelphia, and in particular use of the train. “We are having conversations now about how to provide more robust funding for students,” he said.

Currently, StuCo only has enough money to fund 40 free round-trip tickets per week or 80 partially subsidized round-trip tickets (each ticket would cost five dollars).

But Yuan Qu ’14, appointments chair for StuCo, would like to see the shuttle service return.

“First of all, it’s free. And that’s a wonderful resource. Swarthmore tries to pride itself on making resources available to students that might not be at a different school,” Qu said. According to her, the shuttle was a representation of the College’s commitment to supporting the well-being of its students.

According to Qu, the loss of the shuttle is a deterrent for students who want to go into Philadelphia. Because of the rise in price from $11 to $12.50 for a weekday round trip and $14 on the weekend on SEPTA’s Media/Elwyn rail line to Philadelphia (purchased in advance), paying has become more difficult. “That is very expensive, and immediately just adds a lot more of a financial burden for any student who wants to go into Philadelphia. Especially for freshmen,” Qu said. “I’m an RA this year and there is less encouragement for them to go into the city, especially if they are already financially strained.”

On the other hand, some students have noticed relatively low interference from the cancellation of the shuttle.

Stan Le ’14 felt ambivalent about the issue, noting that SEPTA was an easy alternative.

“I stopped using the shuttle after sophomore year in favor of SEPTA,” Le said. “In general, I feel the shuttle service the college offers are pretty unreliable. I don’t feel like the loss of the shuttle was particularly damaging to campus life.”

The Phoenix