As anyone who’s spent enough time in Los Angeles knows, there’s a lot more to it than the beaches and Hollywood. But it looks like UCLA doesn’t want you to know that.
The BruinBus’ Saturday Shuttle was created by UCLA Residential Life with the intention of providing students access to the city. It currently takes between 300 and 500 students each Saturday from De Neve and Hedrick Turnarounds to Santa Monica, the Grove and Hollywood.
But given its current successes, the 2-year-old program should travel to more destinations.
Housing & Hospitality Services should determine which destinations the shuttle should visit based on campuswide surveys asking students their preferred destinations – similar to surveys students receive about topics like dining halls and life on the Hill. With a more dynamic shuttle system, students would be better able to experience the city in the ways they want to experience it.
While public transit can provide students the opportunity to get where they want, the sheer number of transit stops often more than doubles the time it would take for the BruinBus to make the same trip. For instance, UCLA Transportation Services estimates that it takes around 35 minutes for the BruinBus to get from De Neve Turnaround to Hollywood/Highland while Google Maps estimates it would take 60 minutes by LA Metro Bus. And while ride-booking services such as Lyft or Uber would offer a faster trip, they often cost more than students are willing to spend.
It’s possible that students may be interested only in the current destinations, but because they haven’t been properly surveyed, Housing & Hospitality can only guess. According to UCLA Residential Life’s assistant director of leadership and involvement Josh O’Connor, Housing & Hospitality reached out to resident assistants and resident government officials last academic year asking them to discuss possible destinations for the Saturday Shuttle with their residents. But this method of polling students leaves much to be desired.
“We went back to student communities and asked. There was no paper survey,” O’Connor said. However, Housing & Hospitality gave little direction to the RAs beyond simply finding out where their residents wanted the bus to go .
No surprise, the shuttle’s destinations remained exactly the same. While it’s impossible to know how effectively the RAs sought out student input, it’s safe to say that sending out a survey to everyone would be a more effective way to solicit feedback and recommendations.
Students would relish this opportunity due to their interest in the city. With the LA skyline plastering most UCLA promotional material, the university has closely associated itself with the city. If it is going to use the city to attract prospective students with the expectation that they’ll experience the city, the university should better enable its students to see it once they’re accepted. After all, many students have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to attend school in LA.
For example, Arkin Rao, a first-year neuroscience student from North Carolina, said “I’ve been to Santa Monica and Venice, I’ve been to Hollywood, but I feel like Los Angeles is pretty big and there’s a lot of (other) stuff I should do.”
In order to better expose students like Rao to the city that drew them here, the bus should change its route more often, with better input from students in deciding which destinations it travels to. Housing & Hospitality should send a formal survey to students rather than relying upon RAs and resident government to do fact finding on their own.
According to Clinton Bench, the director of UCLA Fleet and Transit Services, the BruinBus’ Saturday Shuttle operates on an annual contract that typically charges Housing & Hospitality at an hourly rate. Bench added that the bus is unlikely to go to distant locations because the hourly rate indicated in the contract would limit the number of daily trips. While this eliminates destinations such as Pasadena or Long Beach, many of the areas students would be most interested in are still viable venues.
For instance, Venice, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Melrose Avenue are all attractive destinations to college students that are within the same distance as the locations the bus already visits, meaning the number of trips possible would remain the same. And according to O’Connor, last spring had two trips to the UCLA-owned Marina Aquatic Center, a destination further from campus than any of those listed above.
The current system leaves students either spending too much time or too much money. And with increasing enrollment and more students living on the Hill, they can’t simply continue to assume students want to go to these locations.
For many of these students, the appeal of Los Angeles was just as strong as the appeal of UCLA. And rightfully so. Los Angeles is an amazing city great enough that the university even uses it in its pitch to prospective students. But the university hasn’t done enough to hold up its end of the bargain. Unless students want to spend time they can’t get back or money they don’t have, they should get behind expanding the BruinBus’ Saturday Shuttle.