The permanent rerouting of four Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle lines has resulted in longer waiting times and mixed responses from riders, as the McDonough Bus Turnaround opened yesterday.
As per the 2010 Campus Plan, in which the university agreed to lessen noise and traffic congestion in the surrounding neighborhood, the Dupont Circle, Georgetown University Law Center, Rosslyn and Arlington routes now enter and exit via Canal Road.
In conjunction with the route restructuring, there is no longer GUTS service at the Car Barn route to Rosslyn, Va., via Prospect Street.
The Georgetown University Student Association implemented an online survey yesterday immediately after the changes to garner student and faculty opinion on the change. After the first day of implementation, according to GUSA Vice President Connor Rohan (COL ’16), student feedback on the route changes has registered as primarily negative.
“It’s only day one and we’ve already been inundated with student concerns. If I wanted to attend a university where it takes over a half-hour to get into D.C., I would’ve stayed in Fairfax, Va.,” Rohan wrote in an email to The Hoya. “If the unreasonable transit times being reported are not soon drastically reduced, GUSA will respond accordingly.”
GUSA President Joe Luther (COL ’16) said he waited 33 minutes for the bus to Dupont Circle, and that he will communicate riders’ issues to the administration.
“I had a highly disappointing experience today between the amount of time in transit and abnormally long lines to even board the bus,” Luther wrote in an email to The Hoya. “In the immediate future, we will be closely examining and scrutinizing people’s experience with the new route and working with the administration to remedy the issue should the problem persist.”
Riders have commented on the inconvenience of long wait times for GUTS shuttles and an increase in the distance required to travel from the turnaround to other locations on campus.
According to Christian Zeballos (GRD ’16), the time it takes to walk from the GUTS shuttles to class will make the changes inconvenient.
“I guess it’s slightly inconvenient because I have to walk a little bit further than I used to,” Zeballos said. “It’s definitely a bit more of a walk.”
In a universitywide email sent on Friday, Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey said the change was motivated by Georgetown’s vision for a more connected living and learning experience.
“This strategic initiative is part of the university’s broad vision of connecting the academic, recreation and social hubs on campus,” Morey wrote. “The Bus Turnaround is consistent with our goal of moving traffic away from the center of campus to make campus more pedestrian-friendly.”
The Wisconsin Avenue shuttle will remain in its current route, with a pickup at the top of Wisconsin Avenue.
Passengers will have access to new amenities including covered bus shelters and seating, which are projected to be installed over the winter break.
According to Morey, as part of the university’s effort to increase sustainability, the turnaround also features a rain garden to help with rainwater management. Morey emphasized the positive safety benefits that the route change will incur on the student body.
“In general I think that the population at large is better served because the core of our campus is now protected; we don’t have buses coming through there, [creating] more of a pedestrian-friendly environment, less traffic and obstructions to walk around campus,” Morey said.
The university has also been actively working with the District Department of Transportation to prepare for the GUTS changes and address congestion along Canal Road. To ensure a smooth transition, the DDOT posted traffic control officers at the Canal Road campus exit during the evening rush hour.
Taylor Willis (SFS ’16) lives off campus in Crystal City, Va., and commutes to Georgetown on the Rosslyn, Va., bus. He said that he expects to be inconvenienced by the change in location.
“On the one hand, there’s a chance this change makes it take less time to get from Georgetown to Rosslyn, but it does so by eliminating … where I usually get on,” Willis said. “I guess I’m willing to give it a try before saying it’s not worth it, but my hopes aren’t high.”
Kim Zagory, a commuter and administrative assistant at the Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, who was quoted in an earlier article (“GUTS Bus Lines Rerouted, Sparks Commuter Criticism,” Sept. 18, 2015, The Hoya), said she is concerned with the long walk from the turnaround to the hospital.
“It’s a pain,” Zagory said. “It’s a long walk and that’s problematic, particularly for patients who may have mobility problems or people who are ill. It’s a hospital.”
To alleviate mobility concerns, a new minishuttle will be available for riders who require assistance or desire a more convenient route to north campus. This shuttle will drive passengers from the lot outside the hospital back and forth from the bus turnaround.
According to Morey, these shuttles are expected to run three to four minutes apart, and will run on a continuous loop throughout the day.
Tami Lacasse (SFS ’18), a weekly GUTS rider, said she is not bothered by the change.
“I do not believe that it will change very much, although it might be a longer distance going from class to the bus stop,” Lacasse said. “I don’t see it as being a big problem.”
Leslie Martin (GRD ’16) said she believes the switch will add to campus safety and foster a more pedestrian-friendly campus.
“I think it’s a good move because it makes campus more pedestrian-friendly, which is really important to me, with safety involved. … Overall, I liked the drive better this morning, it was a lot smoother,” Martin said.
According to GUSA Secretary for Campus Planning Ari Goldstein (COL ’18), data from test trips on the new routes show longer travel times on the Dupont route during peak evening hours, while the Dupont and Rosslyn routes will be a few minutes faster during peak morning hours.
“The potential for increased route times … is concerning,” Goldstein said. “We’ll be able to see those effects as the turnaround goes into use over the next few months.”
According to the GUSA Campus Plan Report, the shuttles make two million individual trips per year. The report also stated that 32 percent of GUTS riders are students.
In response to the time increase, Morey said that GUTS plans to add an extra bus during peak hours in the future.
“We’re going to try to achieve a headway of 10 minutes,” Morey said. “If you walk to a stop, whether it’s at Dupont or here on campus, [and] you walk up there at 6:51, theoretically a bus has just left [and] you’re waiting nine minutes for the next bus.”
GUSA has been involved in meetings with administrators regarding the planned changes for the past two years. According to Goldstein, GUSA hopes to continue the conversation surrounding the quantity and quality of access to transportation at Georgetown throughout the 2018 campus-planning process.
“It’s important that the university continue to demonstrate its commitment to the student and rider experience of GUTS,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein said that the new GUTS routes are the beginning of a renewed focus on transportation.
“Hopefully that will mean another look at … expanded access to Zipcar and Capital Bike Share on campus to facilitate other access to transportation, and a renewed conversation with students about the effects of the bus turnaround on their daily routines,” Goldstein said.
Hoya Staff Writer Matthew Larson contributed reporting.