New Shuttles Give Students Smooth Ride
In May, Northern Essex purchased two new shuttle buses; one seats 25 passengers while the other, which can accommodate two wheelchairs, can seat up to 24 passengers.
These air-conditioned buses replace two aging passenger vans each of which held only 10 riders. Riders will have the comfort of their own cushioned seat as opposed to the hard bench seats in the vans. Each seat is equipped with a seatbelt and riders will be asked to wear them.
The buses, which ran an abbreviated schedule over the summer, have recently undergone a facelift. Originally a stark white, the shuttles have been wrapped in NECC’s blue and gold colors bearing the college’s brand of “Expect more at Northern Essex”.
Students will no longer need to obtain a ticket to board the shuttle, according to Lt. Dan Tirone, NECC Public Safety Operations Commander. Students need only to wait at the designated bus stops on each campus.
A shuttle bus will leave approximately every hour from each campus. Scheduled runs will operate from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday according to Tirone. These runs will allow the new shuttles to accommodate more than 600 riders a day.
In addition, NECC will now reimburse students who take advantage of the MVRTA express bus from Lawrence to Haverhill that leaves Lawrence at 7:15 a.m. each morning. According to Vice President for Administration and Finance David Gingerella, this reimbursement is available since the morning run is the busiest and the shuttle may be full and NECC is encouraging the use of public transportation whenever possible. Students with questions about the reimbursement should contact the Public Safety Office.
“We hope to accommodate as many students and staff as possible with the new shuttles,” says Tirone. “With the old passenger vans we routinely had to turn riders away.”
These buses, unlike the vans, are owned and operated by Northern Essex. There is a pool of four to six drivers with commercial driver’s licenses with a bus endorsement, to drive the vehicles.
Tirone anticipates better communication between the shuttle drivers and the public safety office. Each shuttle is equipped with a two-way radio so drivers can be alerted to traffic accidents and roadwork so they can travel an alternate route whenever necessary. The driver radios to the public safety office when the bus departs for the next campus.
Riders who need the wheelchair accessible shuttle should contact Student Engagement which will work with the Public Safety Office to be sure the wheelchair accessible shuttle is placed in service on that route at that hour.
Riders are welcomed to use their cell phones and iPods, but leave the coffee and muffin at home. The only drink allowed on the shuttles will be capped bottle of water.
According to Vice President Gingerella, the current shuttle schedule should be considered a “work in progress”.
“We will reevaluate the ridership on a regular basis to determine if any changes in the schedule would make it better for our students and staff,” Gingerella said. He concluded by stating, “President Glenn and the NECC Board of Trustees heard the student and faculty concerns with the old shuttles and have instructed us to do whatever we can to make it a much more pleasant and convenient service for a students and staff.”