In a Feb. 1 campuswide email, the Dartmouth Student Government and the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault jointly announced the expansion of the campus shuttle bus service, the Campus Connector, until 2:30 a.m every night — 30 minutes later than previous service — with additional stops near all the major dorm locations. A live tracking website allows students to view the shuttle's location in real-time and see scheduled arrival times for a number of locations.
The free shuttle was originally designed for primary service to the Summit on Juniper housing complex in Lebanon, according to director of transportation services Patrick O’Neill. According to O’Neill, the administration “realized quickly” that additional various stops along the existing route could benefit student mobility. According to the Dartmouth Transportation Services website, the Campus Connector now operates from 7 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. on weekdays, and 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. on weekends.
Student body president David Millman ’23 said that improving student transportation on campus was part of his original campaign platform from last spring, especially due to the removal of the SafeRide system — which was halted during the COVID-19 pandemic due to health concerns. Millman said that the College does not have the “capacity or labor” to run the previous system, in which Safety and Security provided rides to students. According to prior reporting in The Dartmouth, the SafeRide program provided upwards of 1,000 rides per month in 2019.
According to an email statement from Department of Safety and Security director Keiselim Montás, Safety and Security currently provides walking escorts for the community. Whenever a concern for personal safety is expressed by an individual, a DoSS officer will provide a walking escort for the individual anywhere on Dartmouth’s campus, he wrote. Montás did not mention if there was any effort to reinstate SafeRide in the future.
“We started brainstorming ways to figure out another way to meet this transportation need,” Millman said. “The idea for using campus connect shuttle as a mechanism came from collaboration with Madeline Gochee at SPCSA. We got the idea to get the Campus Connector shuttle to expand and visit all the major dorm stops.”
SPCSA executive Madeline Gochee ’23 wrote in an email statement that access to safe and accessible transit is “essential” for violence prevention at Dartmouth.
“Especially when it is below freezing, students may be inclined to stay in situations that are escalating, or continue to consume substances, because of aversion to the cold,” Gochee wrote. “We have heard a potential rise in cases of gender-based violence that have correlated with the dropping temperatures, which makes this project even more salient.”
Gochee expressed concern over the removal of SafeRide, which she called a program that provided an “easy escape” to students who wanted to leave Webster Avenue, known colloquially as “frat row.”
“We want Dartmouth students to know that student groups, staff and administration are committed to reducing violence and making it as easy as possible to safely navigate campus,” she wrote.
Millman said that DSG worked closely with executive vice president Rick Mills, vice president of campus services Josh Keniston, O’Neill and other administrators to expand the Summit on Juniper bus service.
Summit on Juniper resident Veronica Cavalcanti ’23 said that she has taken the bus past 1:00 a.m. and consistently feels safe.
“There are always people on the bus, so it feels pretty safe,” she said. “I like it in that regard.”
Cavalcanti said that she uses the real-time tracker to find the bus, adding that it offers “incredibly frequent and efficient service.” However, Cavalcanti said that she wished the shuttle would stop at locations including the Hanover Co-Op supermarket — since Summit on Juniper residents have kitchens and buy their own groceries — as well as possibly expand service to nearby points of interest like restaurants.
Computer science master’s student Yash Srivastava, who lives at Summit on Juniper, said that he also wished the shuttle service included a stop at a supermarket outside of Hanover. Srivastava added that he relies on the Advanced Transit weekday bus service to travel to Lebanon for more affordable grocery stores.
Srivastava said he had an overall positive experience on the Campus Connector, describing the shuttle service as “flexible.” One night, he said he was able to stay on campus until around 1:30 a.m. for a party, knowing that the bus would provide safe transportation back to Summit on Juniper. He added, however, that weekend morning service could be expanded. Service currently begins at 9:00 a.m., he said, but he noted that some housing community events or day trips might gather earlier than that. Without a friend to provide a ride, he said Juniper residents could end up “in a bad spot.”
According to O’Neill and Montás, there have been no serious incidents of student intoxication or disorderly behavior on the shuttle buses thus far.
“We have had conversations with the bus company that if there is some type of medical emergency on a bus or any instance where there might be a violation of the law, they should reach out to Safety and Security or call for an ambulance,” O’Neill said. “In the time we have been running it, it has not been an issue.”
Though no additional changes have yet been finalized, both O’Neill and Millman said that the College is considering further expanding bus shuttle service locations in the future. Millman said that the planned North End housing project would require the expansion of bus service, for example.
“I am under the impression that campus services is working with the end result of having an internal campus shuttle that just has the focus of running around campus in the future,” Millman said, adding that he was not sure of the plan. “Updating transportation infrastructure is something that is in the works.”
The College has contacted peer institutions and sent surveys to campus to better understand what constituents need from a shuttle system, O’Neill said. He also said that in the future, the College may expand service outside of Hanover.
“We know from meetings with constituents of Dartmouth and a survey that students would enjoy more weekend service that goes to locations outside of campus, like West Lebanon,” O’Neill said. “Those are things we are looking at but there are no decisions yet.”
Josh Keniston did not respond to a request for comment.