The end of Northwest Shuttle?

MIT considers replacing service with EZRide

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Many students use shuttles but few use the M2, according to a UA survey.
Source: Undergraduate Association Fall 2009 Student Survey
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MIT may stop running the Northwest Shuttle and ask students to use another free local bus instead.
Nicholas Chornay—The Tech

MIT is considering shutting down the Northwest Shuttle service, which runs between the MIT graduate dorms north of Vassar St. and west of Massachusetts Ave. and the main academic buildings. MIT would expect Northwest Shuttle riders to instead use EZRide, a shuttle operated by the Charles River Transporation Management Association that services most of the same area, according to Lawrence R. Brutti, the operations manager of MIT Parking and Transportation.

MIT would save the $200,000 a year it currently spends to operate the Northwest Shuttle, Brutti said. According to Brutti, MIT would probably use the money saved from eliminating the Northwest Shuttle to buy an additional vehicle for the Tech Shuttle service, which runs at full capacity during peak hours. Brutti would also like to replace a couple of older vans with new ones that are handicap accessible.

“It’s a good business move,” said Brutti. “The goal is to reduce cost while enhancing service.”

MIT already pays EZRide $300,000 a year to give MIT ID holders free access to the shuttle, which normally costs a dollar, Brutti said. Should the Northwest Shuttle stop running, MIT would pay EZRide more to add extra stops on MIT campus and extend its service to include midday hours, he said.

The Northwest Shuttle operates all day, from 7:25 a.m. from 6:41 p.m., while EZRide runs only during rush hours, from 6:20 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EZRide does not stop at 77 Massachusetts Avenue or the Stata Center, like the Northwest Shuttle does.

The plan, once fully developed, must be approved by the Charles River Transporation Management Association, of which MIT is the largest member, and then by the City of Cambridge, said Brutti.

The changes could go into effect as soon as this summer.

MIT Facilities is working with the Graduate Student Council to come up with a plan that will make the Northwest Shuttle’s elimination less of an inconvenience to students who use it.

Currently, EZRide does not have a GPS locator for the NextBus system, which allows students to track up-to-date bus location via the NextBus website. Brutti said that GPS locators will be installed in the EZRide buses if they replace the Northwest shuttle.

Wendy Lam G, Chair of the GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee, said that Brutti has been “open” and “receptive” to students’ concerns about replacing Northwest shuttle services.

Brutti said this project is separate from the Institute-wide Planning Task Force Report recommendations, which call for the possible reduction or elimination of redundant bus routes.

Brutti said that the plan to replace the Northwest shuttle has been in the works for four years. The idea has been laying dormant but was revived when an MIT thesis by Aimee K. Beasley ’08 entitled “Sustainable Transport at MIT: Improving Area Bus Services” presented the idea among several others to improve bus route efficiency.

Brutti is working to make the Tech Shuttle run more on time by reorganizing the route and relocating some stops. In particular, he wants to relocate the 77 Massachusetts Ave. to a stop closer to the MIT Chapel.

The UA Releases Survey Results

The UA recently released the results of a fall 2009 student survey about the MIT shuttle services. Over 1000 students participated in the survey, which asked questions about the current services as well as possible future services.

Among those who participated in the survey, 94 percent of students used the shuttle services at least once during the semester. On average, students ranked their satisfaction with the current services a 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 7.

The UA survey also asked questions regarding possible future alternatives to the shuttle services. One proposed alternative was replacing the Boston Daytime shuttle with free MBTA passes for students. Of the 1043 respondents, about 20 percent said they would use the service 3 to 4 days a week. Another 20 percent said they would never use it.