The Wheels Keep Turning: Restore Oakland shuttle service now

Written By Jake Berlin, USG President

The great Fall Shuttle Experiment has failed.

Our University has an obligation to restore regular Oakland service in January. The month long holiday break should be more than enough time to make accommodations–after all, Oakland residents were given only 12 days before the start of this school year to make accommodations when they were told their reliable transportation was being gutted.

And gutted they were.

The complaints have not died as quickly as the shuttle routes. Unlike Lawrence Hall heat which self-adjusts in the winter, or PointWeb scheduling problems which begin to ease after a few hours of trying, the Oakland shuttle debacle has not gone away. In fact, these cold temperatures are only exacerbating the issue.

It is not an exaggeration to say that students have been stranded. There are few (if any) affordable housing or parking options downtown. With such a high commuter population, it is a moral imperative for Point Park to have a “launch site” off campus where students, faculty and staff can travel equitably. For decades the nearby Pittsburgh neighborhood has been part of our campus; demolishing the old Playhouse does not tear down the countless homes and apartments where our classmates reside.

There have been a few arguments offered by the administration which apparently aim to combat criticism. One, the claim that “we don’t have a shelter for people to wait,” is absurd and distracting. There is no formal shelter on other routes and, quite frankly, a route with no shelter is better than no route at all. And then the territorial talking point:  “Why single out Oakland?” they ask. “Why is that neighborhood more special than others?” It is “more special” perhaps because multiple sports teams, much of COPA, and an entire University facility exist(ed) there before the shuttles were cut. While North Side, West End and other neighborhood residencies are important, anyone who thinks those student headcounts compare to Oakland is either misinformed or deliberately obtuse.

The shuttles do not exist purely for serving residency. But how has the tourism component fared? Data presented by Vice President Chris Hill shows only one student utilizing the Mt. Washington route. I am sure it “sounded” like a good idea at the time, and somebody thought that students may want to see the city with a fun view. The problem is that this is usually only fun once, maybe twice. The novelty wears off beyond freshman year– while the need for reliable transportation to Oakland has existed every hour, every day, of every year consistently. Keeping a route to Mt. Washington, while simultaneously neglecting Oakland, is simply malfeasance.
We know there has been a petition signed by over 2,500 concerned individuals who support the Oakland shuttles– an effort with numbers that have been unseen during previous years on campus. This is a movement which has now been validated with hard copy signatures of real students who live in Oakland, all with the same common sense message: Restore regular Oakland shuttle service and commit to the students who have committed to this University. This experiment has failed.