Monday, November 16, 2009

The Hopkins Shuttle: A Love Hate Relationship

For many people affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, the Hopkins shuttle that connects the Homewood Campus with the Medical Campus. The convenience is great, the experience, sometimes, isn't as much. If any song fit this situation the best it would be U2's "With or Without You". In the few months that I have moved from Fells Point to Mt Vernon, I have relied on the Hopkins Shuttle almost daily to get back and forth from work. Unfortunately, so do many other students, faculty, and staff that utilize the line.

For those of you unfamiliar with the service, the shuttle runs North-South along Charles St and St. Paul Street turns at Mt Vernon and runs East-West along Monument St and Madison/Orelans Streets between the two campuses. Simple right? Tell that to the shuttle drivers. Sometimes you'll notice if you ride many days in a row, your shuttle might not go the same route twice. Some drivers diverge and continue down Madison Street, while others cut along Guilford to make it to Mt. Vernon. Just the other day, I saw what appeared to be an Express bus turning up Calvert Street.

Riders must also face overcrowded shuttle buses and extra long wait times, since shuttles must routinely pass some stops because they are too full. Exacerbating the problem is the services reliance on coach style and school buses. While coach style and school buses are great for one stop commutes, they do not serve best on multiple stop shuttle routes. The one door entrance makes for slow boarding and egressing at stops, lenthening the overall trip. Complicating this is the fact that many buses are full with standees, forcing many to walk off the bus to let sitting riders get off.

Shuttle stops markers are non-existant, leading many new riders to guess where the bus stops at a given mark on the map. Nor does the shuttle beneit from Next Vehicle Arrival System which many college shuttle systems use (e.g. Loyola University, Towson University, and University of Baltimore). When the Hopkins shuttle is running late (which can be frequently) or if a crowded bus has to pass a stop by, riders have no idea when the next shuttle may be coming.

Potential Solutions:
  1. Clearly marking shuttle stops with Hopkins Shuttle signage
  2. Adding a NVA system for all stops 
  3. Replacing coach style buses with more two-door buses (with front-door entry, rear-door exit policy)
Love it or Hate, if you ride it, you know how convenient it can be, but we all know how better it could be.

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