Tufts should prioritize improvements to SMFA shuttle

Tufts’ shuttles have a notorious reputation. The bus that transports students to and from Davis Square, known as the ‘Joey,’ has been mocked and memed for being slow and infamously late. However, it’s really the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA)/New England Conservatory (NEC) shuttle that deserves the attention. While the Joey is widely used, it is possible for many people to get to Davis from the Tufts Medford/Somerville campus on foot, whereas the SMFA/NEC shuttle is the primary mode of transportation for dual-degree students looking to make the six-mile journey from Medford to the Fenway to attend class. Leaving these students without a free, frequent and at least somewhat comfortable mode of transportation is putting an unnecessary hurdle in front of students.

To the administration’s credit, there have been some improvements to the SMFA/NEC shuttle. A Sept. 7, 2015 Daily article reported that Tufts switched from its previous contractor, Joseph’s Limousine & Transportation, to A & A Metro Transportation. Since then, some SMFA dual-degree students have noticed a more consistent schedule and are able to arrive to most of their classes on time. 

However, these changes do not suffice. According to a March 3 Daily article, the shuttles are still overcrowded, with some students even sitting on the floor for the duration of the ride into Boston. This is further complicated by the students bringing canvases and other supplies on the shuttle, oftentimes a necessity for art students.

Additionally, many students are unhappy with the SMFA/NEC shuttle’s infrequency. With the intervals of its scheduled trips being much longer than those of the Davis Square Joey, the SMFA/NEC shuttle leaves many students to take public transportation or an Uber in order to arrive reasonably on time to their classes.

Is a tardy, cramped shuttle the worst thing in the world? Of course not, and the dual-degree students are the first to acknowledge that. But the bottom line is that this is how these students get to school. Students who may already be faced with sky-high tuition should not have to resort to paying out-of-pocket just to get to their classes because of an ineffective shuttle system.

This is not an institutionalized problem that would take a long time to fix. This issue should not require a forum or a panel. All we need is some funding and proactivity on the part of the administration to give dual-degree students the reliable transportation that is so fundamental to their educational access. If the administration seeks to provide a positive and equitable learning environment, it must ensure that the SMFA/NEC shuttle system works well for everyone who needs it.

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