Calling on the college to revamp student safety

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • March 3, 2016

At issue: Lack of late-night transportation.

Our take: Emerson should step up and fill the need with a shuttle.

After a vote from the MBTA, the T’s expanded late night service will come to an end. RIP, of course, to taking the T back from those sweaty Allston basements where many an Emerson student has lost an earring or a had a six-pack of PBR swiped from their backpack. Start demanding Venmo payments for cabs, Lyfts, and Ubers — you know you’ll need them.

But that’s only a surface reading of a change that will really present a lot of problems for students on and beyond Emerson’s Boston campus. The late night T service is meaningful to more than our college’s students, but Emerson’s administration ought to hop on board with a change to bridge the gap between the T’s reduced hours and the needs of students: implementing a campus shuttle.

Late night train service is screeching to a halt—imagine the shrill sound blaring from the Boylston inbound station every day to understand our suffering—and a campus shuttle is a suitable vehicle to fill the vacancy between the hours of midnight and morning. Why, you ask, especially given our millennial propensity toward rideshare apps? Because we need equitable transportation access that ensures student safety and is environmentally mindful. In the midst of administration efforts to implement changes centered around themes of strengthening community, ensuring safety and access, and promoting environmental quality and integrity, shuttles could bring change round and round, all through the town. 

In a city full of colleges, there are a wealth of existing shuttle examples. Harvard University has a live tracker of its buses, which run through Cambridge and Allston into the late weekend hours. Boston University’s The Bus runs up and down its stretch of Commonwealth Avenue and into the South End, with comparable nighttime hours to Harvard’s. Tufts University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Massachusetts Boston are other area institutions that have incorporated this service into the fabric of their student life. From suburban campuses to ones as urban as ours, these programs have set a precedent that Emerson could easily follow.

The logistics of running a shuttle service in a crowded city can be a daunting task, but there are a number of ways that Emerson could make it work. One way would be to extend a partnership offer to our friends across the Common, Suffolk. We both need to get back to the same area, and they’re also newly in need of late-night transport. It could run routes to Copley, Kenmore, and other popular areas of the city in addition to the fields where our sports teams play in the South End and East Boston. With this partnership would come higher athletic event attendance, new advertising space, and a wide variety of options for implementing what’s proven to be an extremely useful program for many other schools.   

This would also have an impact on student safety, employment options, and incentive to enroll. Since the Tremont St. entrance next to the Emerson College Police Department was closed in September of last year, students have been vocalizing concerns about safety on this ill lit street and the surrounding area. This isn’t a request for a car to drive student from one door to another, but it validates that students do have concerns for their safety and any form of transportation that decreases the anxiety of community members would be welcomed. When safety is improved, this can also work favorably for student enrollment. Both parents and students ask about the protective measures taken on an urban campus and this is definitely a move that would show the concern is taken seriously. Not only would this assuage fears, but it could also be another student employment option—licensed drivers could apply for the position. 

The MBTA’s failure here is Emerson’s opportunity to rise to the occasion. The plan is not only feasible, but also a solution to vocal complaints our student body has about a city and a school that brands itself as a mecca for growth and young talent.