As I pushed my bags out the door of Nevils Hall last Tuesday morning, I opened Uber and Lyft, hoping that my ride to Reagan National Airport would be reasonable. $59.77, the app read. There was no time to call a taxi if I hoped to beat the Thanksgiving season madness. It would have taken too long to take the Circulator and Metro down to Reagan. Frustrated, I accepted a ride that cost nearly triple what it did my first-year fall.
I know I’m not alone. Many Georgetown University students felt the pinch of expensive Ubers and Lyfts to Reagan National and Washington Dulles International airports this Thanksgiving break. GroupMe chats were flooded with messages from students eager to share their ride with another student to save money. As recently as March 2020, Georgetown University offered airport shuttles that would leave campus at specific times or pick students up at specific times. These shuttle services were widely used by students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. However, Georgetown has seemingly discontinued this service without providing an explanation or an alternative.
Holiday shuttles for Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break, Easter break and summer break were an important resource countless students utilized before the COVID-19 pandemic. They helped students, especially those who had to fly in and out of Dulles Airport, by sparing them the often exorbitant costs associated with a taxi or rideshare. Given the present economic situation that exacerbates student hardships, Georgetown should once again offer shuttles to Reagan Airport and Dulles Airport around university breaks.
Ubers and Lyfts were already not cheap in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic has greatly exacerbated these costs. Fewer drivers, higher gas prices and much greater demand for rideshares are all increasing prices and wait times. Add to this the reduced Metrorail service following the recent derailment and there’s a perfect storm of problems. One report estimates that nationally, Uber prices have increased by 92%; almost certainly, this increase is higher for users in our region. For students at Georgetown who are already struggling with the city’s high cost of living and the regular stream of expenses associated with Georgetown student life, inflated rideshare costs around the holidays are an additional and unnecessary burden the university can ameliorate by offering shuttle services.
Obviously, rideshares, taxis and shuttles are not the only options for getting to and from the airport. Yes, the Metro is an option –– taking the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle (GUTS) or the D.C. Circulator to the Rosslyn Metro Station and jumping on the Blue Line would get students to Reagan Airport. Georgetown students could also certainly share rides to the airport. These options, however, are not feasible for students with larger, or multiple, suitcases and are even less viable for students going all the way to Dulles Airport. Offering shuttles, especially late ones, also ensures greater student safety, especially for female-presenting students and students who are members of marginalized communities. Moreover, students who have early or late flights might not be able to organically find friends or acquaintances with flights at similar times, just given their wildly different course and exam schedules. In past years, shuttles were immensely helpful in solving these issues for students. They added to the flexible, safe and accessible transportation options stressed students had at their disposal.
Caring for the whole person, one of Georgetown’s most celebrated and touted missions, includes allowing students to share the holidays with their loved ones. The opportunities for rest and reconnection that breaks provide are vital parts of our formation as students and as individuals. Thus, I implore the university to bring back holiday shuttle services so that students are not financially punished for wanting to spend time with the people they care about.
Eric Bazail-Eimil is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.