Vern Express struggles to maintain regular schedule

Unrelenting snowfall and icy roads forced the Vern Express to compromise its schedule this week, leaving some Mount Vernon residents feeling frustrated and isolated.

The Vern Express, which usually runs every 15 minutes during the week to connect the Mount Vernon and Foggy Bottom campuses, adjusted its schedule due to poor road conditions, Associate Director of Mount Vernon Campus Life Jennifer Solt said.

“A big ol’ bus can’t go flying down an icy roadway,” Solt said.

The Vern Express is continuing “to run around-the-clock throughout the weekend, and is prepared to operate in severe weather,” the Mount Vernon Campus Life Web site said Thursday. But the site warned that trips might take longer than normal due to the weather, and some residents said the trip has taken up to 45 minutes.

“It’s been tough getting around and stuff. It’s been really hard taking the Vern Express back and forth to Foggy,” freshman Ben Kirby said. “It’s been a pain.”

Freshman Julia Anderson said the distance sometimes creates a feeling of isolation from the main campus, along with the action going on in Foggy Bottom.

“I kind of feel like I can’t really go anywhere,” she said.

The Vern Express took extra safety precautions over the weekend to combat the heavily weathered road conditions.

“They put chains on the tires of the buses in order to provide traction when there’s snow and ice on the ground,” Events and Special Services Marketing Coordinator Elan Schnitzer said.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Vern Express got stuck multiple times in snowbanks.

But other services at Mount Vernon have not been disrupted, Dean of Freshman Fred Siegel said.

“The campus and its staff have responded magnificently to the ‘Snowpacolypse,’ ” said Siegel, whose private residence is located directly behind the campus. “Since almost all the service venues have remained in close-to-normal operation, students have been well-served… from the Eckles Library, to Ames Dining, to Lloyd Gym.”

The GW Police Gatehouse remained fully staffed throughout the weekend and the Key Depot in Somers Hall reopened Tuesday after a closure Saturday.

Even without a convenient passage to Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon campus residents said they have been enjoying the snow, or as Somers Hall resident Craig Dudek put it, “enjoying being trapped on the Vern.”

“A couple days ago we had a giant, Vern-wide snowball fight in which the Vern residents retreated into [Somers] Hall, not realizing that everybody else on the Vern can swipe in. So we wailed on them in the lobby,” Cole Hall resident Jeff Levy said.

Solt said the snow days have renewed Vern community spirit.

“I know people really, really enjoyed sledding,” Residential Advisory Council President Aly Azhar, said. “I like the fact that Mount Vernon Campus Life takes such good care of us, that they care enough about us that they would plan these events to prevent us from getting cabin fever and give us something to do.”

Siegel said he is pleased that students seem to have been responding “enthusiastically” to the circumstances, but he is looking forward to things returning to normal.

“Honestly, another foot of snow is not what I’m hoping for,” he said, “At some point a bit of ‘cabin fever’ has to set in. Let’s hope for the best.”

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