Shuttle system gets back-to-school overhaul

Amanda Laabs

Students already adjusting to the new school year will also be adapting to a revamped Northwestern shuttle system.

Members of Associated Student Government, NU’s administration and the City of Evanston worked together to overhaul the previous shuttle system in an attempt to make it more efficient and intuitive for students. Changes include new route names, the reorganization of most stops to increase efficiency, the reopening of Campus Drive to allow shuttle access to Annenberg Hall, University Library and Norris University Center, and a brand new “Where’s the Bus?” GPS tracking Web site for most shuttles.

“Hopefully, we’ve created a new system that students can rely on a little more and which will work more quickly in areas and times of high demand,” said Tommy Smithburg, ASG vice president.

The Purple and Purple Express Routes have been renamed the Evanston Loop and Campus Loop, respectively, in order to more clearly indicate exactly where the shuttles are going. The Frostbite Express now runs the same route as the Evanston Loop, and the Intercampus Shuttle has added a few new stops. Extraneous stops on each route were consolidated in order to save time and allow the shuttles to run more often each day.

“We tried to work out the times so that students would get to class right before they start, not a half an hour before,” said Matt Bellassai, ASG student life director.

The overhaul also comes with a completely new service: a Web site that students can log onto and see the exact GPS location of all shuttles except the Intercampus and Chicago Express. Though still a prototype, the Web site should be up by the end of September, Smithburg said.

Marge Grzeszczuk, manager of Transportation Services, said she views the shuttle’s return to Campus Drive as the largest advantage.

“Now, students don’t have to walk through pathways late at night,” she said. “It will save them at least five to seven minutes.”

The overhaul was a joint effort between the ASG cabinet, members of University and Transportation Services, the Chicago Transport Authority and Evanston city administration, along with plenty of feedback from city residents. ASG chose the revamp as its spring project after surveying more than 700 students and repeatedly hearing their discontent with the shuttle system. After submitting their proposal to NU, close collaboration with city representatives and the CTA ensued until all parties agreed on the final changes.

“The timing was very convenient,” said Brian Peters, director of University Services. “Though we look at schedules and routes and feedback every year, sometimes we make few changes and sometimes we make many. This year we made many.”

Though ASG wasn’t able to get 100 percent of its proposal enacted, Smithburg said they are still happy with the final outcome. ASG suggested several changes that weren’t implemented due to city preferences and limitations, including running the Evanston Loop during the day and adding more off-campus stops.

“Though there’s always room to make it work better, we’re really excited with how things have turned out,” Bellassai said. “The result was well worth the work.”

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