Despite the population growth on the Mount Vernon Campus, the Vern Express is still running the same number of shuttles to and from the Foggy Bottom Campus as last year.
University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said up to 12 buses may be operating during peak hours even with the opening of GW’s newest residence, West Hall. An additional 300 students now call the Vern home.
“We are closely monitoring the operation of the Vern Express given the opening of West Hall and the resulting additional students traveling to/from the campus,” Sherrard said in an e-mail.
Sherrard said the transportation and parking services office monitors daily ridership numbers to adjust to ridership concerns. She said there have been capacity issues raised during the 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. time frame since the start of the term.
“In response, shuttle scheduling was modified to allow more buses to be ‘in service’ during this time period,” Sherrard said. “We continue to monitor this change – and the schedule overall – to ensure that we are able to accommodate the transportation needs of Mount Vernon residents.”
Some students have said the shuttle is too crowded, especially in the mornings, due to the increase in population on the Vern.
Freshman Marcelle Little Dawes said she thinks the 8 a.m. shuttle can sometimes be a nuisance.
“It’s so busy in the mornings,” she said as she stood at the Foggy Bottom stop on H Street. “Sometimes you have to stand up in the back.”
Another change to the Vern Express this year is the closure of the stop at the clock tower on the Mount Vernon Campus.
Sherrard said the clock tower stop was eliminated to “limit the potential for vehicle/pedestrian conflicts in the area.”
Students have voiced concerns about the change and Sherrard said the modifications will be evaluated to determine whether the change will be permanent.
Despite student concerns about the reduction of stops, one driver who identified himself as Mr. Kasali said he is very pleased with the one-stop change.
“It makes it safer for the children,” Kasali said. “Last year, [students] would go in the street after they were dropped off, and since my breaks are slow, this was very dangerous.”
For students making the trek to and from West Hall, Sherrard said upgrades were made to the campus garage to improve the passageway between the new residence hall and the campus quad. Stairs are currently part of the main outdoor path, but the passageway in the garage can be used by “students with accessibility needs or during inclement weather.”
Those students with accessibility needs can contact Mount Vernon University Police to request a direct pickup from West Hall as well, and a dedicated phone for that need will be installed in the lower level of the building near the cafeteria.
Parking Services has also created a group called “The Eye Team,” an organization of students that will be in charge of monitoring the shuttles for “timeliness, cleanliness, and passenger counts,” Sherrard said.
Still, some things on the Vern Express haven’t changed.
Sherrard said there was an incident over the Labor Day weekend in which a student vomited on a shuttle, which meant the shuttle had to be removed from service and also increased impacts on the remaining shuttles.
Sherrard said if a student becomes ill on the Vern Express he or she may be charged a $200 cleaning fee, depending on the circumstances.