Column: Students deserve more efficient transportation to the Mount Vernon Campus

During my three-and-a-half-hour break between classes each Monday, all I want is to go to my Somers Hall room on the Mount Vernon Campus and take a nap. Unfortunately, this means joining about 100 other students in line for the Mount Vernon Express that shuttles students between Foggy Bottom and the Vern every day. The line begins at the steps of Tompkins Hall and wraps around the corner of G and 23rd streets, gaining length with every passing minute. Waiting in never-ending Vex lines has become an inevitable, daily setback that has interfered with students’ ability to attend class on time, an unacceptable fact that does a $80,000 student experience no justice.

Every day, I have to choose whether to spend my awkwardly extended period of displacement between classes in my room on the Vern or in the University Student Center. Should I wait outside in line for 30 minutes to return to Somers or should I actually be productive in the meantime? It’s an irritating decision that I am tired of making, mostly because I know no matter how inconvenient the trip to the Vern will be, I’ll soon have to head back before doing it all over again. To mitigate the backlog of students waiting for these shuttles to arrive, GW should anticipate the buildup of these lines that form when classes let out each day and circulate extra Vex shuttles to eliminate unnecessary disruptions and delays.

Last Monday, I joined the line to go home at around 12:30 p.m. with dozens of other students who take the nine University Writing classes that start at 1 p.m. on the Mount Vernon Campus. I ended up walking into class an hour after, 30 minutes late. “Does anyone else need to get to the Vern? I can take four people with me!” a student shouted. Four other students joined immediately, and the group split off in a Lyft to get to class on time. The rest of us continued to wait for the next Vex to board the third batch of us in line as the clock continued to tick before the start of class. Students shouldn’t have to resort to paying out of pocket just to get to their destinations in an efficient manner. The University should eliminate this inconvenience that hinders the ability of every student to share an equal opportunity to attend class, fulfill their responsibilities and succeed in their academics.

Staff already monitors the Vex lines throughout the day to make sure students can get to and from the Vern, and GW has a chance to use these positions to their full advantage. When these lines form, staff works to calm the increasing panic of a time crunch as they see students stirring with restlessness. “The next one should be here in 10 minutes,” they say as they go down the line counting off who will be on the first, second and third buses to arrive. They step aside to dial the Vex drivers to alert them of the masses. GW should use these staff members to identify the Vex’s peak rush hours and act accordingly with a larger fleet during those times to minimize the buildup of lines.

During GW’s Alumni & Families Weekend, GW accompanied every Vex with charter buses to help transport the influx of families, even though the lines paled in comparison to those during the school week. The buses seemed to act as a preventative measure to ensure lines didn’t reach their normal levels, a strategy that GW should employ for students during the weekday. I find it ironic that GW’s transportation investments spare parents of our excessive Vex lines instead of ensuring we can actually get to the classes and residence halls that cost our families beyond $80,000. I have to leave for one of my classes more than an hour early because I know my grades will suffer if I don’t budget that kind of time. But students should not have to avoid punishment for being late when GW creates the problem and does little to nothing to solve it. Instead of limiting the increase of functional transportation to Alumni & Families Weekend, GW should expand their effort to the overlap of students’ vital commutes throughout the week.

Students deserve better than waiting in never-ending lines, being late to class or wasting time just to get home. It is not the responsibility of the Vex staff to drop everything and calm a problem that needs GW’s support. Officials can learn how many students would need to board the Vex on their way to or from class before or after common class times based on the schedule of classes. Instead of leaving the Vex staff to fight an already massive line, GW should use its class data to guide increased daily shuttle deployment and account for its peak rush hours. The University needs to fix the problem before the line gets even longer and the number of students who miss class continues to grow. Officials’ reluctance solve this issue is vexing – they just need to do a little research and put their students and staff first.

Isabella Soileau, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is an opinions writer.

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