Kelsie Wysong, '20
$5 shuttle buses to the airport
I have the pretty unique experience of getting into Stanford off of the waitlist. I remember actually getting a call from my admissions officer, rather than just an email or a letter sent to my house. He spoke with me for almost two hours about whether I should give up my spot at another school in order to take one at Stanford. As a first-generation, low-income (FLI) student, one of my main concerns about Stanford was money. I remember asking him how most students get to and from the airport when flying home over the holidays.
"Well, I think most students just Uber," he responded.
Growing up in Metro Detroit, I'd never considered Uber as a transportation option. Even if Uber was more widespread in the Bay Area, I didn't trust a random stranger to drive me, nor did I have a credit card to open an account. Even then, it seemed to me that Stanford could do more to help its students with getting to and from home.
Stanford is situated almost equally between the San Francisco and San Jose airports. While students have the opportunity to choose between the airports to find the cheapest flights, having multiple departure points makes it much harder to coordinate rides with friends or dorm mates. As a result, students take thousands of costly and carbon-filled individual trips to the airports.
In the spring of 2019, seeing a need to provide students with a more sustainable solution, the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) teamed up with Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) to provide $5 bus shuttles to the airports during spring break. They sold 76 tickets and about half of those students checked in. While the initial trial was small, students who took the shuttles reported satisfaction with the price and drop off points.
I joined the project shortly after the trial run, having been involved with various other sustainability projects on campus. In the fall, we decided to offer the shuttles again to take students to and from the airport for Thanksgiving break. This second iteration sold out. Of the 225 tickets sold, 81% of people actually rode the buses. For winter break, we added more seats on each bus, and even included an additional third day of shuttles. Again, we saw an 81% turn out rate of the 375 tickets we sold.
So far, our shuttle program has been a huge success on campus. Student reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. In addition, our bus shuttles saved students thousands of dollars in Uber rides and prevented over 2,000 lbs. of CO2 pollution. We are excited to continue to learn from the spring break shuttles planned for later this quarter.
This project has truly been one of the highlights of my Stanford career, as I am able to help meet the needs of both the FLI community and the sustainability community. I believe that most students are looking for ways to leave Stanford better than they found it, and this project is my chance at contributing to that dream. When the next person debating on whether or not to attend Stanford asks how they will be expected to travel to and from home, ASSU and SSS will be able to give a sustainable, inclusive answer that directly shows how Stanford students provide solutions for their peers.