Walk or ride? Scrutinizing the SLU shuttle

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Some see it as one-way ticket to the promised land. Others see it as an unattainable reality that is always present, but constantly taunting its potential riders like an oiled-up arcade claw dropping ball after ball as its users stand dumbfounded. However you choose to view it, the shuttle system between SLU’s Medical Campus and Frost Campus is currently under heavy scrutiny as students are struggling, now more than ever, to decide whether or not taking the shuttle between the two campuses is truly worth the time and hassle that is required for the “shorter” commute.

The journey has been recorded numerically as being 1.2 miles, 2,513 steps or roughly six minutes by car. No matter how you decide to quantitatively analyze the distance between the two points, one thing is for certain: students enrolled in classes on the medical campus need to make the trek on a daily basis between the two locations in a timely manner. For those who use the shuttle, myself included, there are two vastly different, but all-too-familiar experiences.

The first experience is a glorious one for those who recognize the issue at hand and develop strategies to work around it. What I am referring to is the extremely acute group of academically dedicated individuals looking to arrive to class in a timeframe remotely close to that of commencement. These students oftentimes leave 45 minutes to an hour before the class is scheduled to begin. In doing so, they are rewarded with the treatment of the gods. Perhaps the greatest of these benefits includes a private limousine service in which the riders are afforded the luxury of steadily cruising at a smooth-but-predetermined pace to their final destination without a care in the world. This is the utopian image of what the shuttle experience should entail.

However, this scenario is only present for the few who decide to make a significant sacrifice in handing over an hour, an irreplaceable unit of college currency, to arrive to class ahead of their peers. That is the price of admission to enjoy a lifetime of seamless, tranquil shuttle experiences, as I’m sure was originally intended.

On the contrary, those waltzing on down to the shuttle stop 15 minutes before class begins might as well have written their own death sentences. Unfortunately, I have experienced this route as well. In doing so, I have seen amusement-park-sized crowds flood the pick-up station to pack into the shuttle, each sparring for a spot. Even after all that, a myriad of students find themselves left in the dust without a prayer of arriving on time. Nearly every shuttle user can be temporarily turned into an old romantic as they quite easily but regrettably recall “the one that got away.” If you momentarily close your eyes on this tightly packed vessel, it may seem as if you are on a rickety, old wooden roller coast. If you are trying to soak up any last minute information before an exam, you’d be better off making an origami structure out of your notes. At least that would have the potential of boosting morale.

On top of that, the bolstering noise levels surrounding the premise go unmatched. The melodical frequencies coming from the vehicle are oftentimes amplified to levels comparable to an exuberant innercity nightclub. Don’t get me wrong, this can provide for a euphoric atmosphere when embarking on a midmorning journey back from your final class on a Friday, but can also be counterproductive and nerve-wracking during the midweek grind. Regardless of the mental and physical toll that riding the shuttle has taken on your body, you finally make it to the med campus by the skin of your teeth.

Now, whether or not your experience has resembled either of the two previously presented scenarios is not the point. The point is that no matter what your emotions regarding the shuttle are, it is here to stay.

However, I would like to note that there is a whole other world out there that oftentimes goes unnoticed. This parallel universe is inhabited by a set of students that have avoided this godforsaken piece of mechanical ingenuity altogether. These students are “the walkers” — those who forgo the shuttle completely. They set aside a little extra time to move at their own pace, get some serious exercise and avoid all the hassle. A stroll down the streets of St. Louis with some divine scenery, including views of the famous Gateway Arch, may be just what the doctor ordered to calm the mind and rejuvenate the body before the ensuing class begins.

Next time you find yourself preparing for the hectic week ahead, consider whether or not the shuttle is truly worth it for you, and if it is, plan accordingly so you don’t find yourself head underwater, wrapped up in the inevitable tsunami of chaos that results from trying to catch the final shuttle to class.