Students advocate shuttle service to Union Square
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 08:09
Two Tufts seniors submitted a proposal this summer that suggested an expansion of Joey shuttle service from its existing Davis Square route into another large commercial location in Somerville: Union Square.
Students Amy Bean and Sam Kronish submitted their proposal on July 9 during a meeting with Vice President for Operations Dick Reynolds.
The route to Union Square, which is less than three miles from campus, would be either supplemental or combined with the Joey shuttle’s current Davis Square service, which has existed for over a decade.
“We want Tufts students to know that Somerville exists beyond Davis Square,” Bean said. “The city of Somerville is a very interesting and diverse place, and we want the Tufts population to know that.”
Located in the square are culturally diverse dining choices and many markets that include Brazilian, Korean, Indian, Italian, Portuguese, Haitian, Nepali, Bangladeshi and Pakistani options. The square also offers a wide variety of bars and music clubs, as well as the inexpensive grocery store Market Basket.
“Tufts students, especially freshmen, don’t really know that much about the surrounding area,” Kronish said. “Union Square is a sort of hidden gem that we feel the Tufts community hasn’t really had an opportunity to explore extensively yet.”
The shuttle would ease the commute for students who volunteer in Union Square throughout the week, Bean said. This includes 90 Tufts Peer Health Exchange and 50 Leonard Carmichael Society volunteers as well as 70 students who work at LIFT-Somerville, a branch of a national non-profit organization that combats local poverty.
Without the proposed Tufts service, it takes these individuals over an hour each way to travel from school to work, according to Bean. The square is currently inaccessible by train – the closest T stop is 1.5 miles away – and can only be reached by students via Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus lines.
“With busy class schedules, in addition to other responsibilities on campus factored in, an extra two hours of commute time becomes very difficult, verging on impossible,” Kronish said.
A shuttle to Union Square could also increase the number of volunteer and job opportunities for the entire student body, Kronish said.
From the Community Action Agency of Somerville to Somerville Community Access Television, Union Square houses several local companies that are eager to increase their involvement with Tufts students, Bean said.
“We talked to several non-profits and small business owners in Union Square who all said they would love to have Tufts volunteers,” she said. “There is a lot of excitement from the existing organizations who don’t currently have volunteers from Tufts.”
Allowing students to explore more parts of the area could also be of monetary benefit to local businesses, Bean said.
Because it is the middle of the fiscal year, the bus service cannot begin until at least 2013, Reynolds said. Logistics such as the bus schedule, an estimate of ridership and the size of the bus have to be finalized before the service can be incorporated into the next budget.
“We will have to come up with a way to fund this new shuttle once we know what the costs are for the schedule that works best,” he said.
Beyond meeting with Reynolds, Bean and Kronish said they have also discussed the initiative with University President Anthony Monaco. Monaco has helped the students develop a blueprint for a bus service that would be useful to all members of the Tufts community.
To increase student support for the proposal, Bean and Kronish in June created a Facebook group called Tufts Transportation to Union Square. The page has generated approximately 227 likes since then.
In order to raise student awareness and potentially get more students on board with the plan, Kronish and Bean will advertise at the Student Activities Fair on Sept. 11 and will be posting flyers around campus, Kronish noted.
Though the specifics are far from finalized, Bean and Kronish hope that the end result will be a feasible way for students to explore an underutilized area.