Letters to the Editor

UA Has Made SafeRide Improvements

Mr. Aditya Kohli ’09 criticizes the Undergraduate Association (“A Safe, Simple Solution for SafeRide,” Nov. 13, 2007) for making “no visible progress” on SafeRide issues. He ignores critical successes that we have achieved in partnership with Larry Brutti of the Parking and Transportation Office. Last spring, when funding for the Boston Daytime SafeRide was withdrawn, the UA lead a student effort that included the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, and individual fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. Through our initiative, we secured $40,000 to provide for the continual operation of this service. Without UA leadership, the very service that Mr. Kohli criticizes would not exist, and over 700 FSILG residents would have no convenient method of transportation to campus.

The UA is aware that old buses, improper scheduling, and poor tracking are important issues. Fortunately, they have already been addressed or are currently being addressed. The delay in launching the four new SafeRide buses resulted from state transportation inspections, not from assembly difficulties. Today, any student who waits outside the Student Center at night can easily identify the large new shuttles, sometimes called “SafeRide on Steroids.” They represent vast improvements over the small temporary buses that were rented as an interim solution.

Scheduling is a legitimate issue. The UA has little ability to enforce scheduling but has worked with the Panhel SafeRide Committee to recommend new solutions. Boston Daytime SafeRide does not run on a consistent schedule, but rather, makes a continual loop. If it were to stop at the Student Center to wait for a scheduled departure time, as we have recommended, several of the timeliness issues would be addressed.

Mr. Kohli also cites ShuttleTrack’s poor reliability, which is a serious problem. That said, it is being quickly addressed. Several years ago, the permanent SafeRide shuttles had functioning GPS units to track their location. Early this fall, PTO was temporarily forced to use small rental shuttles that were not equipped with GPS, making them impossible to track. PTO expects to install permanent GPS units in the new SafeRide shuttles shortly.

Mr. Kohli’s criticism of the biodiesel initiative might be valid if it were impeding SafeRide improvements. The reality is that they are operating in conjunction. The commitment to convert SafeRide shuttles to use environmentally-friendly fuel should be viewed not only as an important endeavor unto itself, but also as an initiative that synergizes with the Institute’s growing emphasis on sustainability. The UA recently passed a bill to provide the nationally recognized Biodiesel@MIT student group with $1,250 towards the remaining $12,500 that is needed to install the biodiesel processor.

Mr. Kohli further criticizes the UA for “recently pushing for the development of a new ‘bridge shuttle.’” He goes on to say that the UA has made no visible progress on this issue, while simultaneously suggesting that the UA should not focus on it. It should be noted that we have not entertained this idea for several months. During our election campaign last spring, we floated the idea of a bridge shuttle, but dropped it in the face of logistical hurdles.

There are many critical concerns about Safe­Ride that remain to be addressed, and we met with Larry Brutti last Tuesday to discuss them. We appreciate Mr. Kohli elevating the importance of SafeRide and assure him that we are working to make enduring improvements to it.