College Council looks to begin transport service

A campus-wide transport service may begin as early as next semester.

At the beginning of this semester College Council created a transport service. Samantha B. Abelson ’98 began developing a shuttle service for the college community.

Without a day program in place, Abelson says they are not even focusing on setting up one for the night. In a campus survey sent out in the beginning of this spring semester 515 students supported the prospect of such a service and gave Abelson enough positive comments to warrant her continuance on this project.

Along with Abelson, Director of Security Jean Thorndike-Wilson and Associate Director of Administration Services at Buildings & Grounds Harold F. White are going to develop a usable system for the shuttle service.

The 15-passenger van would have a scheduled route like the current public bussing system, only it would be solely for student use. “The shuttle will follow a route to such places as the Berkshire Mall, KMart, WalMart, the Berkshire Medical Center and Stop-N-Shop,” Abelson said. The route that the shuttle will follow has not yet been decided upon.

Its primary passengers are expected to be freshmen but Abelson stressed that students of any class can use the shuttle. The days the shuttle will run depends heavily on the amount of student use for those times. It could be a daily service if there are enough passengers, or else it might be available only certain days of the week.

“[This service] is looking very possible for next year,” Abelson said. “The reason we cannot have it this semester is that we do not have enough resources for a consistent service from now until the end of the semester.”

One such resource would include having at least one 15-passenger van available for the rest of the year to use whenever the shuttle is scheduled to run.

With some help from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ shuttle route, Abelson, Thorndike-Wilson and White plan to meet after Spring Break to set up all the details for the shuttle so that next year it will be ready to begin.

The shuttle is expected to alleviate some of the problems that both the college departments and students have had to face with a limited usage of cars.

“Junior Advisors used to try to rent vans to take their freshmen to Stop-N-Shop and the mall,” Abelson said. “But there was a problem because usually there were no vans available for them to take.”

Also, this service should cut down on the number of cars rented out for students to use to go to places like the North Adams’ optometrists and the hospital. Not only does B&G expect to have fewer requests from students for cars and vans, but so does security.

In the year 1995-96, security transports for students added up to a total of 3,038 times, while in 1996-97, the number was 3,277. Out of those 3,277 times, 105 trips were made to North Adams for various reasons, 217 times students were taken directly to North Adams Regional Hospital and 142 times it was for other medical reasons.

“With only two patrol cars available each day, when one is being used to transport students around Berkshire County there goes half the force,” Abelson said. “This program will be beneficial because it will create ways for students without cars to get to places.”

“It is a great idea and it [the shuttle] should definitely be free,” William Aubuchon ’99, who ran a late-night taxi service earlier in the year, said. “There is definitely a demand for this type of service.”

The idea for a campus-wide transport service was started by Aubuchon, who took it upon himself in the fall of ‘97 to use his own car to drive students back and forth around the Williams campus.

“Initially, it was only for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights,” Aubuchon said. “I thought it would be useful for students when [the weather] got cold and they wanted a ride to all the parties.”

He called it the “Forget-About-It” taxi service. Aubuchon thought of his service as an alternative to drinking and driving, plus it would be very convenient for the students to use for only a one dollar fee. Unfortunately, because he did not have a license to run a taxi-service (even a quasi-taxi-service) he had to get outside help.

Aubuchon turned to the College Council to help implement this service for the college community. According to Aubuchon, their interaction did not go smoothly.

“They [the College Council] were totally not in favor of me running this service,” Aubuchon said.

He stressed that almost everyone he contacted for help was upset with him for “trying to make a buck off of college property.” After some time, though, Aubuchon finally got the support he needed.

Upon speaking with Assistant Dean of the College Wanda Lee about the future of the service, she granted him the permission to use a college van. Now he had both the proper insurance and plates to run his service legally. With the purchase of a $300 CB radio, the service was then able to run more like those of professional taxi services.

Students wanting to use this service would call his number and he would hear through the CB exactly when and where to pick them up.

He advertised his service with posters and went to speak to the Housing Committee about creating a type of ticket-for-a-ride that could be bought ahead of time for each residential dorm.

“This project is entirely different from the ‘Forget-About-It’ service,” Abelson said. “That was offered on the weekends and during the evenings, while the shuttle will only run during the day.”