Students say Vern Express service is unreliable

An increase in the number of Mount Vernon residents this year has prompted the University to expand the fleet of Vern Express buses shuttling between its two campuses, but frequent riders are still complaining the service is slow and unreliable during off-peak hours.

Four more busses connect Foggy Bottom and the Vern on weekdays and three additional buses run the route on weekends compared to last year – and two more will hit the road this weekend. But the shuttles are inconsistent during late-night and weekend hours, and in the early morning when students are trying to make it to classes on-time, some residents said.

“Late at night it doesn’t stay at the exact schedule,” said Priyanka Karande, a freshman living in Merriweather Hall. “[They need to] wait for students longer at night so that it gets everyone.”

Mount Vernon resident Blake Bergen called the system flawed, saying the shuttles, which carry about 1,000 riders per day, need to follow a stricter timetable. Vern resident Joe McHenry pointed out the troublesome periods usually occur when fewer students are riding the bus.

“In the late evening or early morning, when you’d rather not be waiting in bad weather, the buses are often unreliable,” McHenry said.

A lack of productive communication might be keeping the problem from being resolved. Despite the clear sentiment from those interviewed that the shuttles are inconsistent, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said GW hasn’t received many formal complaints about the system.

The lack of reported issues makes it difficult to address problems, but the University has assembled a group of students to investigate and aggregate the feelings of those who ride the buses regularly, Sherrard said.

“To ensure students play an active role in the operation and oversight of [The Vern Express,] GW has created an ‘Eye Team’ of students who are the eyes and ears of the ridership program,” Sherrard said in an e-mail. “While ‘Eye Team,’ members appear as a typical student to a driver, their main function is to gather ridership data regarding shuttle departure/arrival times, possible cell phone usage by drivers, ensuring driver and shuttle information are properly displayed and unnecessary idling of buses.”

Few complaints in recent months have been about buses running behind schedule, she said.

“Students have reported about a dozen issues this semester, which include issues about lost items,” Sherrard said. “All written Vern Express complaints that include an e-mail address or other contact information.”

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