Shuttle Use Up

December 16, 2001

Nick Marinello
Phone: 865-5714

According to October statistics released by the Tulane Department of Public Safety, shuttle use on the uptown campus has increased threefold since this time last year. In the span of one year, the October figures have risen from 987 to 2,712. "This is very encouraging," says Lt. John Heidel, who has monitored shuttle usage since the university began it 15 years ago. "We had trouble getting people to use this doggone thing."

According to Tony Lorino, senior vice president for operations and chief financial officer, the single biggest reason for the increase is the implementation of a shuttle service to relieve on-campus parking. The service, which was initiated at the beginning of the semester, ferries Tulane employees and students from the parking lot of the recently purchased Uptown Square shopping center to stops at Gibson Circle and Freret Street by Stern Hall.

The service is free and anyone using the service can turn in his or her parking permit for a prorated refund. A key component in the shuttle system, say Heidel, is Laura Robertson, who drives the Uptown Square route from 7:40 a.m. to 5:10 p.m., making the complete circuit in 20 minutes.

In recent weeks, the overflow of riders has been so great that public safety has put another van in service between 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., thereby ensuring a wait of no longer than 10 minutes. Similar shuttle services were tried in the past, but all were discontinued because of lack of use.

Lorino says he cannot be certain why the shuttle is so successful this time, but speculates the yearlong anticipation of the Uptown Square purchase by Tulane may have gone a long way to focusing attention on the service. Or perhaps, he says, it was the attention given to the parking crunch at University Senate and campus planning meetings. Or maybe it is less tangible than that.

"We did something right and we got lucky," quips Lorino. Heidel also attributes the recent success to the positive attitudes of shuttle drivers, especially those driving the on-and-off campus service at night that brings students from three locations on campus to their doorsteps.

"We have two drivers, Meltris Smith and Shawanda Wilson, who are really friendly and very compatible with the students," says Heidel.

Smith says he has noticed that more students are catching his red-eye route, sometimes more than 30 in a night. "Oh, I have fun with them, he says of the students, many of whom are regulars. We are like family. I make them feel comfortable; my job is to make them want to ride again."

The nighttime service picks up students from Gibson Circle, Rosen House and the Howard-Tilton Library, but Smith says most board at the library. The nighttime service runs from 5:30 p.m. until 2 a.m., but will be extended to an hour later during final exams.

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