It’s time to hit the brakes and re-evaluate the BruinBus.
There is nothing more disheartening than seeing rad Los Angeles events show up on your Facebook feed, only to realize that it’s a $20-to-$50 Uber away.
The BruinBus is a shuttle service run by UCLA that provides transportation within campus and the Westwood area. They also have a Saturday Shuttle that travels to farther destinations. The current BruinBus system is great for navigating Westwood, which has few public transportation options, but little else. Bruins still struggle to leave the actual Westwood area.
Although the Saturday Shuttle that goes to Los Angeles attractions is meant to alleviate this issue, it only has one destination this quarter: Santa Monica. To make matters worse, the shuttle already utilized that location during fall quarter – hardly making it a viable method to experience all the rich culture the city has to offer. Given recent expansions in LA’s light-rail infrastructure, students stand to benefit from access to a metro station.
There’s a simple solution for the Saturday Shuttle that would appease students who are tired of going to Santa Monica over and over: Give students access to the LA Metro. Direct shuttle service to the Westwood/Rancho Park station on the Expo Line instead of specific destinations would provide better opportunities for students to see the whole city and break out of the Westwood bubble.
As is, the destinations offered can be lacking. According to UCLA Residential Life’s assistant director of leadership and involvement, Josh O’Connor, students can help choose destinations for the Saturday Shuttle each quarter. But even the current methods of gathering student input may be insufficient. The input-gathering process is relatively informal and doesn’t use a comprehensive survey.
Furthermore, relying on specific destinations inherently limits access because students must still choose single locations and must resort to their own devices should they choose to go anywhere else.
Although transporting students directly to a local destination may seem convenient, it hardly offers an immersive LA experience. Furthermore, students may be discouraged from using the service more than once if they go to the same location each time.
Students could become isolated from other parts of the city. “I have not explored Los Angeles as much as I would like to,” said Nadine Schenker, a first-year student living on the Hill. “I feel somewhat disconnected from the city.”
LA’s subway system presents an opportune fix: It has quick, easy access to areas of interest like downtown LA, Hollywood and Koreatown all for the cost of $1.75.
It could even be faster than direct service. For example, Santa Monica is one of the most frequent destinations for the Saturday Shuttle. According to Google Maps, direct shuttle service from the De Neve turnaround to Santa Monica takes approximately 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, it takes around 14 minutes to go from De Neve turnaround to the Westwood/Rancho Park station. From there, it’s a 21-minute train ride to Santa Monica. Total ride time: 35 minutes. In exchange for an extra five minutes of transit time, students have the opportunity to visit virtually anywhere in LA for a cheap price.
Subway access can also open other destinations like downtown LA, Hollywood and Koreatown to students. The roads between Westwood and these neighborhoods are typically riddled with traffic, and taking Uber or Lyft to these places can strain riders’ wallets.
Having students interact with the LA Metro and other public transportation systems isn’t just a way for students to experience the city; it’s also increasingly relevant to their lives as Angelenos.
Large cities like LA are turning towards public transportation systems as a method of combating the urban traffic sprawl. The Santa Monica station and other western LA stations just opened last year, and the long-awaited expansion of the Purple Line will eventually bring the subway system directly to UCLA.
For the most part, BruinBus’ day-to-day operations would remain unchanged. Students could still use the grocery shuttles and various Westwood shuttles to navigate campus and the directly surrounding areas. But changing the Saturday Shuttle would allow UCLA Residential Life to gauge student reactions and see if there really is a demand for easier access to public transportation from UCLA.
In an evolving city culture that has begun to open up to public transportation, UCLA must keep up with the times. Repurposing the Saturday Shuttle as a direct-to-subway service is just one small but effective way of modernizing student transportation.