When the Office of Student Engagement was pitched to the campus last year, The Phoenix was told that one of its main goals would be to break “The Bubble” — scare quotes courtesy of Mike Elias — by making the city more accessible to us. We suggest that the college bring back the Philly shuttle as a way to accomplish this goal.
Last year, the Phoenix wrote an editorial calling for the shuttle’s return, but little has changed except for the suspension of train service to the city on weekends for the remainder of the semester. In many respects, Swarthmore does not think holistically about the student experience — the college doesn’t pay enough attention to things that fall outside of academics; the state of Dining Services proves the administration believes good food is, at best, tangentially related to a happy college experience — so we are glad that overtures of consideration have been made. But when Rachel Head says, “We’re here to support all students,” we can’t help but feel the gap between intention and reality.
The college emphasizes the closeness of Philly as a bonus to coming here, but how are we supposed to get to Philly? The SEPTA lottery is insufficient. Although it is good that tickets are free this year, they have not always been free — and they number too few. The majority of students who enter the lottery get no tickets, and the $12 round-trip fare to Philly is a significant cost to many.
For those who want to stay in Philly past midnight on weekdays or past eleven on weekends, SEPTA is useless. That we have Zipcar on campus is good; it allows circumvention of that time restraint — but even disregarding the initial cost of registration, the per hour cost of Zipcar is greater than that of the train after only two hours. Zipcar is definitely not for everyone.
The college should bring back the Philly shuttle as a way for those who otherwise can’t get into the city to explore one of our advertised attractions. Recently, we have noticed a marked improvement in the running of the vans and, accordingly, we believe that if the same attention were paid to a Philly shuttle as is paid to the Target shuttle, it would become a very popular method for students to enter the city.
Were the shuttle to run with more frequency than the train and later, we could finally have better access to Philly than Haverford students.