The Georgetown University Student Association hosted a Hoya Roundtable on transportation Wednesday night in the Healey Family Student Center’s Great Room, where students and administrators discussed concerns on the rerouting of Georgetown University Transport Shuttles and pedestrian safety.
Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey and Vice President for Government Relations and Community Engagement Chris Murphy fielded questions and suggestions from around 60 students for more than an hour. Much of the conversation focused on the rerouting of all GUTS bus stops to the newly constructed turnaround in front of McDonough Arena.
Morey explained that the change in bus routes was the result of the 2010 University Campus Plan, which mandated GUTS buses use Canal Road to leave campus instead of Reservoir Road.
“We’ve got to use Canal Road for the buses in and out,” Morey said. “We can’t cause objectionable conditions to our local communities and those objectionable conditions are really a function of negotiations between all the parties involved.”
To accommodate this change, several new GUTS stops were considered — such as around Cooper Field — but ultimately rejected due to pedestrian safety concerns.
“[This] doesn’t synergize with what we want with that pedestrian student-life corridor to be on the east side of the football field,” Morey said.
In response to concerns on increased travel time caused by the change, Morey said the university has not compiled sufficient data, assuming the lack of a bus stop outside of Car Barn has had the most significant impact on travel time.
Student riders, including GUSA President Joe Luther (COL ’16), have complained of wait times of more than 30 minutes for the Dupont Circle route. GUSA responded to student concerns in early November by implementing a survey to receive student and faculty opinion on the rerouting.
“This is the part where we feel like we don’t have statistically significant data,” Morey said. “The loss of a Car Barn stop must certainly hurt and affect much of our community in terms of commute.”
Lydia Bubniak (SFS ’18), who attended the roundtable, said the GUTS bus rerouting causes Georgetown to be more isolated from the rest of D.C.
“Georgetown sells itself as being in D.C., one of the most major cities in the country, but it seems like if it is going to take almost an hour to get to anywhere to connect you to anywhere else in the city — where most nonprofits and most businesses are — we might as well be all the way in Fairfax, Va, like at [the University of Maryland],” Bubniak said.
Bubniak also criticized the Georgetown neighborhood for imposing its desires on the university.
“The university was here since the 1700s, [the neighbors] knew it when they moved in,” Bubniak said.
As a response to student complaints, Murphy said that as most students are not D.C. residents, their words carry less weight than those of the surrounding community.
“Most of you are not D.C. residents, right? Most of you don’t vote in D.C., most of you don’t pay taxes in D.C., so the campus plan regulation that the district government put place was not designed with you in mind,” Murphy said.
In an effort to convey student discontent to administrators, GUSA Secretary of Campus Planning Ari Goldstein (COL ’18) polled students about their stances on the GUTS rerouting and found that students are in near-unanimous agreement against the rerouting proposal and want more accommodations like mini-shuttles to assist those who live far from the new GUTS turnaround.
“The university invested $4 million in a turnaround that every student in this room says had a negative impact on their experience,” Goldstein said. “We would all appreciate it if the university invested in similar funds, energy, attention and effort within the next campus plan to put negotiations into solutions that improve student life.”
As the roundtable ended, the event’s dialogue shifted to the issue of pedestrian safety on campus after the GUTS bus rerouting.
Jack Welty (SFS ’16) said he supports pedestrian safety but doubts whether GUTS buses hinder pedestrian well-being on campus.
“I don’t think pedestrian-friendly is a bad thing but I have just never heard of a kid being hit by a GUTS bus,” Welty said.
Morey could not think of an instance where someone has been hit by a GUTS bus, but said the risk is still significant.
“I don’t know how many [incidences] there have been. If it is zero, that’s what I want but if it is the first one, it is too many,” Morey said.
Vice President of GUSA Connor Rohan (COL ’16) said he was pleased that students were able to effectively express their complaints to the administration during the roundtable.
“I am glad that students finally had a venue at which to voice their opinions on this very unpopular matter and I look forward to administrators presenting timely and effective solutions to the student body,” Rohan said.
Welty shared Rohan’s sentiment, but was disappointed that it took the GUTS bus rerouting to bring student attention to the university campus plan.
“We have been talking about the campus plan for a long time,” Welty said. “It is almost sad that it took an event as … sort of traumatizing to some students as moving these GUTS bus stops.”