Student complaints about the tardiness of Park Bethesda shuttles have decreased, but safety issues, such as drivers speeding and using cell phones, are still a concern, according to AU Director of Risk Management and Transportation Services Tony Newman and Park Bethesda Resident Manager Greg Gadren.
However, AU has verbally agreed to continue service through November with Reston Limousine, which operates the shuttle system between AU’s main campus and Park Bethesda apartment building, according to Newman. The previous month-long agreement ended Sunday. Newman manages the contract in conjunction with Public Safety.
The General Assembly’s Committee on Student Life discussed shuttle safety issues in a Sept. 27 meeting, where committee Chair Carlos Ramirez called the drivers rude, unsafe and incompetent. Ramirez also stated that he is concerned that no student sits on the Transportation Issues Project Team, a working group that oversees the AU shuttle operation.
However, Reston shuttles are safe, according to Reston Limo owner Kristina Bouweiri.
“We know our buses are safe,” she said. Bouweiri added that mechanics are always on duty should any mechanical problems on the buses occur.
However, buses continue to break down, Gadren said. He also said that drivers still use cell phones while driving. Although this is legal in Maryland, drivers in D.C. must use hands-free devices, according to a law that went into effect in July. Newman discussed the cell phone issue with Reston Limo representatives. Bouweiri said her company issues the drivers cell phones with hands-free devices for business use in case the bus experiences problems.
In response to complaints about Park Bethesda shuttle lateness and safety issues, which The Eagle previously reported, Newman and Gadren instituted a complaint log at the reception desk of Park Bethesda. Students may ask receptionists to record complaints, which Gadren compiles at the end of every week and e-mails to Shuttle Coordinator Kevin Wyatt and Newman. Newman forwards it to Bouweiri, who then responds to the complaints. Some lateness complaints are unavoidable, Newman said, due to construction and other unforeseeable traffic barriers.
Reston Limo could further fix schedule problems if it received the complaint log every day, Bouweiri said. When she only learns of complaints on a weekly basis, it gives the students the perception that Reston Limo is slow to fix problems, she said.
In response to these comments, Executive Director Of Housing and Dining Julie Weber said Reston Limo “can have the log anytime they want.”
Now, the shuttle is “coming on time more,” Gadren said.
Lateness complaints have decreased because the weekday schedule was changed from a bus running between main campus and Park Bethesda every 15 minutes, to every 20 minutes, Bouweiri said. Newman made the new schedule and retains the power to make further changes. The new schedule took effect Oct. 1.
In response to complaints from students and AU regarding drivers taking wrong routes, Reston Limo began placing Global Positioning System tracking devices on the buses, with the driver’s knowledge, according to Newman and Bouweiri. This technology will allow Reston Limo and AU to keep a record of when the shuttle arrives at each stop and ensure that the drivers are following the correct route.
The verbal agreement to continue shuttle service for November will soon be put into writing, according to Newman.
Now that Reston Limo has aquired a new contract, it will be able to bring newer buses over to the Park Bethesda route this week, Bouwerei said. She added that she thinks AU shortchanges the service Reston can provide by not signing a long-term contract. She said that most shuttle service customers sign long-term contracts in order to provide the money for Reston Limo to buy the best equipment specifically for that customer. AU and Reston’s last long-term contract expired in July.