NU Shuttles: the laughingstock of the Big Ten?
By Daniel Hersh
I stood at the bus stop next to Patten, bundled up and ready to head to the basketball season opener, which was due to start less than 40 minutes.
About 25 other fans waited alongside me while I talked with a few friends. Everyone was excited to see Chris Collins’s first game as head coach, and to see if we start the season off with a win. We were all ready to go, waiting for the shuttle to come.
The gameday shuttles are advertised to run every 12-15 minutes, starting and hour and a half before the game, and continuous service for up to an hour afterwards. That’s not what I experienced.
After waiting for more than 20 minutes for a bus, a few guys and I decided to walk to the arena. I don’t know if that shuttle ever came to pick up the rest of the fans, or if they had to walk too.
Luckily for me, though the weather was chilly, it wasn’t the dead of winter yet – it was only about 45 degrees in early November. But when it’s in the teens, single digits or even negatives, waiting that long for a shuttle that may or may not show up is not okay.
And that was less than an hour before the home opener and the first game for our new head coach.
Once the game ended, the line for the shuttle back to school was pretty long – but hey, the bus was actually there this time – so I got in line. People packed into the bus.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky few who were able to squish their way onto to shuttle. Instead, I was left outside to wait, colder, angrier and more anxious than before.
But a shuttle was just there, and the game ended less than 20 minutes ago, so there were probably plenty of buses that are coming to pick up the rest of the fans and take them back to campus. Right?
Another 20 minute wait. The exact same result.
For a men’s basketball home game, there need to be more shuttles. Especially for a sport as popular as basketball, this problem needs to be remedied.
When we were walking up to Welsh-Ryan for that home opener against Eastern Illinois, one of my friends said, “Northwestern has got to be the only Big Ten school that makes its own students walk a mile to its games.”
Students shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not a bus will come to take them to a Big Ten basketball game. The system is doing a disservice to the fans, the team and the school.
Here at Northwestern we don’t sell out every game like some Big Ten schools. But we still have students who want to watch our team play. For those fans, getting from campus to Welsh-Ryan is a problem.
The people who run the game day shuttle system need to take a reality check, walk that mile to Welsh-Ryan in our shoes, and fix this problem.
Women's sports deserve shuttles too
By Shannon Lane
It was cold. It was dark. I was frustrated.
Last year, I signed up to cover a women’s basketball game in the dead of the winter. I scarfed down a quick Hinman dinner before trekking back out to battle the elements on the way to Welsh-Ryan. I was trying to be responsible in doing so—tip-off wasn’t until 7 p.m. but I wanted to catch the 6:25 p.m. shuttle to allow enough time for the bus to drive up to the stadium and for me to get ready once I arrived.
So I walked out to the Jacob Arch stop and waited. And waited. 6:25: no shuttle. 6:30: still no shuttle. 6:45: no shuttle in sight. Of course, now I’m not only frustrated, but stressed that I’m not going to make it to the game on time and risk looking incredibly unprofessional by walking into the arena late.
I frantically refreshed the NU Shuttles app, which is only good for telling you the time the shuttle is supposed to arrive, not where it actually is. It wasn’t until 6:52, eight minutes before the ‘Cats were set to start, that a Welsh-Ryan shuttle finally came into view.
Even for students trying to hitch a ride from Elder to class in Harris, this is all too common an occurrence. We all know the shuttles are unreliable, doomed to break your heart and freeze your fingers. But the lack of game day shuttles presents a different dilemma: a seemingly never-ending cycle of apathy toward Northwestern sports that aren’t football.
Northwestern provides these shuttles, as well as separate buses for football games, for free and one of those routes is to and from Welsh-Ryan. But unless Fitzerland is open, most students don’t know and/or care that there’s a game, sometimes two, going on, especially when it’s a low-profile or women’s sport. Northwestern is not inclined to increase the number of shuttles running to the arena. Without a means of transportation, students aren’t likely to go to games. And thus the cycle continues.
Of course, part of the issue lies in the fact that I was going to cover a women’s basketball game. The ‘Cats are currently 10-4 on the season and 8-1 at home (for reference, the men’s team is 7-8), but sadly, women’s sports just don’t get the same kind of attention or traffic as men’s sports.
It’s true of professional women’s basketball and it’s true on our campus. Be it the low-scoring games or shorter history, people don’t care enough about women’s sports to see them and students certainly don’t care enough to wait in the freezing cold for a shuttle that may or may not come.
But, that doesn’t mean that the University has to contribute to that mentality. Instead of hanging its head about the fact that women’s games don’t get much student attendance, Northwestern could ensure that shuttles will arrive on time so that students who want to go to the games can. Or NUIT could reexamine the NU Shuttles app so that it tracks where buses are in real time, instead of where they were scheduled to be 10 minutes ago. Or both.
The University doesn’t need to invest in shuttles specifically for women’s games, at least not yet. Rather, it can work up to that level by improving the systems already in place, thus enticing students to attend more games.
And maybe someday in the near future, Northwestern will be forced to make room for shuttles to women’s basketball games or lacrosse games (a seven-time national championship-winning squad, I might add).
Still, even with a change to the system, there’s always a chance we’ll get stuck shivering in the cold.