Students report VandyRide outages, lack of CSO rides

Many students reported inconsistent timing, missed stops and unavailability of VandyRide shuttle buses and CSO rides.

A VandyRide shuttle bus, as photographed on Jan. 22, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Eigen Escario)

Eigen Escario

A VandyRide shuttle bus, as photographed on Jan. 22, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Eigen Escario)

Tasfia Alam, Staff Writer and Photographer

Students across campus report inconveniences using VandyRides due to challenges with shuttle bus tracking, inconsistent stoppage and unavailability during certain hours. Students also reported being walked home by community service officers after requesting a ride. 

VSG is also working with MoveVU to improve the VandyRide feedback form, with which students have reported issues. Future improvements include QR codes for the feedback form installed within the shuttle buses and informational pamphlet distribution to first-years

VandyRide service outages

The VandySafe app provides information about the location of the shuttle buses and any announcements regarding their operation. Sophomore Supreethi Sridhar said the app often glitches, which makes it difficult to determine when the bus will actually arrive. 

“Sometimes, the van’s location jumps in between stops on the app, and I often end up missing it,” Sridhar said. “It’s very inconvenient not knowing the van’s accurate location.” 

Michael Briggs, director of Vanderbilt’s Transportation and Mobility Office, said the app displays inaccurate locations often due to incorrect tracking by the vans’ GPSes. 

“Although [the data] is called ‘real-time,’ the system typically checks between the GPS and the bus at timed intervals and makes assumptions about the bus’s movement,” Briggs said in an email to The Hustler. “Occasionally, the GPS can be off or not accurate.”

Sophomore Miracle Felsner added that the VandyRides are often out of service, which creates difficult wait periods, especially during the winter. 

“I was waiting for the Black [Route] van [at Rand Circle] when an out-of-service one came to the stop and said another van was on its way,” Felsner said. “The next bus came five minutes later, but it was a Gold [Route] van, and the Black [Route] van was all the way on Commons. I was waiting in 20-degree weather for over 20 minutes before the [Black Route] van came.” 

Briggs said that the vans are often shown as unavailable when the drivers take breaks or get gas. 

When students are seeing an Out of Service sign, the drivers are taking a break for lunch or restroom. If students see the buses off the route completely, the drivers are usually going to refuel their bus at the Chestnut facility off-campus,” Briggs said. 

Felsner also said the van skipped its stop at Blakemore House multiple times on Nov. 12, 2022. 

“I was waiting at Blakemore for the van one night when I saw on the app that it went from Highland straight to Rand [Circle] instead of turning to come to Blakemore,” Felsner said. “It skipped [Blakemore] one more time before finally coming, so I was waiting for almost 30 minutes.”

The timestamps of the shuttle bus from Nov. 12, provided by the Transportation and Mobility Office, showed that the shuttle bus skipped Blakemore twice. Briggs said there were several reasons this situation could have happened but did not state a specific reason. 

Felsner said she submitted the VandyRide feedback form multiple times after the Nov. 12 incident, but no one contacted her about her submission. The form states that a staff member will follow up with students about their submissions. According to Briggs, no feedback form submissions have been received since April 2022. He acknowledged that there may be an issue that caused Felsner’s form to not be submitted. However, Briggs still recommends students submit a form if a problem arises after an incident occurs so staff can address it in a timely manner. 

Briggs cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a challenge VandyRides faced and from which it is still working to recover. He explained that there was a low demand for the service during the pandemic which led to understaffing. Briggs said the office is planning to hire new staff to improve the service. 

“We will be continuing to explore opportunities to expand service and routes as resources are budgeted. We anticipate having a new staff person in the next year to help develop a longer term plan for the system and for Mobility Rides to address our emerging needs and support implementation of FutureVU and MoveVU,” Briggs said. 

Briggs also said the Transportation and Mobility Office is working with VSG to implement new methods to improve awareness and address student concerns about VandyRides. Public Safety and Transportation Committee Chair Sophia Chou, a senior, said VSG is working on creating pamphlets to distribute to first-years to inform them about VandyRides. 

“VSG’s priority is letting incoming classes know they have access to these resources — highlighting where stops are, letting them know to download the [VandySafe] app [and] the hours of operation. We have so many resources, but no one knows how to use them,”  Chou said.

To encourage students to submit their concerns through the VandyRide feedback form, VSG also plans on putting QR codes of the form inside the shuttle buses.

“[Students] scan it if there is an issue in the moment,” Chou said. “We are working on getting the QR codes set up and fine-tuning the details of the form.” 

Alleged new policy regarding CSO rides

Sophomore Sandra Adaremi, who regularly uses the CSO escort service this year, called VUPD around 5 p.m. CST on Jan. 21 to request a ride from Morgan House to EBI from a CSO due to pain in their knee. The officer told them that they would no longer be able to drive students in the future.

“I was driven by a CSO [and] they told me that after this [ride], they wouldn’t be able to drive students across campus and that it would only be a walking escort,” Adaremi said. 

Adaremi has not used a CSO for an escort since the incident. 

Junior Leen Alabdalla said she called VUPD at 1 a.m. CST on Jan. 28 to request an escort from a CSO. In the past, she said an officer would drive her to her dorm. Instead, the CSO officer walked her from Zeppos College to Highland Quad. 

“When I found the police officer outside of Zeppos, he just started walking. I thought he was walking me to the car first, but we just kept walking until Highland,” Alabdalla said in a message to The Hustler. 

After the first incident, Alabdalla said she was driven from Rothschild College to Highland by a CSO upon request due to inclement weather around 1:30 a.m. CST on Jan. 29.

“[The CSO] had to call and ask VUPD if she was allowed to drive me,” Alabdalla said.