Mary Lyon (ML), the farthest residence hall from main campus Swarthmore College, has been facing transportation issues since students returned this Fall. The Garnet Shuttle, meant to transport ML residents and others to and from campus, has been continually described by ML residents as inconsistent. Receiving rides from Public Safety is another transportation option for residents of ML, but due to understaffing issues, Public Safety has been unable to provide a more reliable schedule to the ML population of over 100 Swatties.
ML residents have been unable to make it to campus on time for classes and club meetings throughout the semester, sometimes having to resort to the fifteen to twenty minute walk to campus.
In an interview with The Phoenix, Joné Bagdanskytė ’25 shared her experience with the Garnet Shuttle.
“There’s been many instances where the shuttle arrives at ML and it only has three spots left for a group of ten. If the shuttle driver is kind enough, they’ll let us sit on the floor. However, I’ve been late to class quite a few times because that’s not been an option and even though I scheduled in enough time to get the shuttle and waited for it, I ended up having to walk.”
Bagdanskytė also underscored the stress of being an ML resident at such an academically rigorous institution.
“Living in ML, you can be the most punctual person ever and still be late to half your commitments. It’s simply embarrassing to once again be repeating the phrase ‘Sorry, the shuttle was weird this morning,’ to your professors and club leaders,” Bagdanskytė elaborated.
ML Resident Assistant, Paige Looney ’23, also commented on the infrequent running of the Garnet Shuttle. She described the general inconvenience of living off main campus, even with the shuttle’s services.
“ML students have 35 minutes more taken out of their schedule every day by travel than on-campus students do,” she said. “And that’s only if the MLer leaves their room in the morning and doesn’t come back at all until night, which is what many of us do. This also has the effect of requiring us to carry everything we need throughout the day with us at all times, which is physically tiring and difficult when it comes to sports equipment or other bulky objects.”
Looney highlighted the issue of overcrowding on the morning Garnet Shuttle.
“Sometimes the shuttle doesn’t come, or doesn’t have enough room. This is most common in the mornings before class, because the shuttle’s loop is Parrish-PPR-ML-PPR-Parrish. At first glance, it makes sense for the shuttle to stop at PPR twice, since it’s on the way between Parrish and ML, but the result of this route is that the shuttle sometimes fills up at the first PPR stop, which forces ML students to be late or walk, or both. One solution would be changing the route to Parrish-ML-PPR-Parrish,” Looney suggested.
In her role as a Resident Assistant, Looney attempted to alleviate some of this burden for Mary Lyon residents.
“I am an RA, and therefore I spend more time with our Residential Communities Coordinator (RCC) Khadijah Greene than most students get the chance to. Khadijah has been a huge advocate for the students of ML since day one … However, it is PubSafe who is in charge of the shuttle system, not the RCCs,” said Looney.
Among other things, Looney suggested that Public Safety create a designated schedule for the Garnet Shuttle to decrease the stress of taking trips to campus. Bagdanskytė mentioned that RAs had also attempted to excuse ML students for being late to on-campus commitments, which eventually did not come to fruition.
When asked to comment, Public Safety Director Michael Hill cited the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent understaffing as the root cause of the issues with the Garnet Shuttles. Public Safety is just one of many campus organizations experiencing understaffing this Fall.
“As a 24/7/365 operation, it is not unusual for Public Safety to have open positions. While maintaining our staffing levels during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, we are not unique in facing that challenge, as noted in last week’s Phoenix [article].”
Hill went on to describe the current measures in place to attract more shuttle drivers.
“Since the College increased the minimum wage to $15.00, we have hired four new drivers and are still looking to bring on at least two more. The salaries of the drivers who have been with the College prior to the minimum wage increase were reviewed by Human Resources and their pay rates were increased accordingly,” Hill said.
ML residents have called for increased communication with Public Safety in hopes of getting either a more reliable schedule or less convoluted route. Hill stated that the shuttle service was expanded earlier due to a student’s concerns, but hopes to continue hiring and recruiting drivers.
“The expectations for the shuttle aren’t that shocking — we all just want it to run, to run on time and to run consistently. I don’t know why this is so hard to implement,” exclaimed Bagdanskytė.