CSUN has been shuttling students back and forth from the Northridge Metrolink station since 1994, but according to Alan Shrake, a geography professor here on campus, merely picking up students from the bus station isn’t sufficient.
During the summer, Shrake taught a California geography class in which he challenged his students to come up with an interesting way of reducing greenhouse gasses at the local level. While many suggestions were proffered, one idea seemed to resonate with the entire class more than any other. That idea was to provide a shuttle that reached out to the surrounding areas. The rationale was that it would keep less people from driving and in doing so also reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
‘Our major concern was global warming, and we decided that if you can reduce traffic and the usage of fossil fuels then you’d be cutting down on the pollution that causes global warming,’ Shrake said.
What started out as an in-class project soon extended beyond the confines of the summer semester. According to Shrake, a handful of students in the class decided they wanted see this concept all the way to fruition, but first they needed to gauge student support.
‘We thought, ‘How can we encourage student support for a shuttle on campus?’ and somebody came up with the idea of doing a survey,’ Shrake said. ‘The survey showed positive results.’
With support from attending students out of the way, the next hurdle was to submit a formal proposal to the ASU. That task has recently been taken up by Jorge Alvarez, one of Shrake’s students, and is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.
‘I will contact the student body to find out when they meet for the fall,’ Alvarez said through e-mail. ‘I start school Aug. 25, and will be ready to meet (ASU) during the following week.’
According to Astrid B. Logan, transportation coordinator for CSUN, the likelihood of the school being able to expand its current shuttle program is unlikely.
‘At this point we would have to talk about identifying some type of funding source,’ Logan said. ‘Because at this point it’s really all that we can do to keep what we have running, running.’
The current shuttle provides transportation to and from the Northridge Metrolink station Monday-Friday between 7 and 9:30 a.m., and again in the afternoon between 2:59 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. According to Logan, those times see the heaviest traffic for CSUN ridership, a contingent she estimates at around 900 students per week.
‘A few years back we did have a community circulator called the Smart Shuttle,’ Logan said. ‘It was kind of like a dial-up service, in which people could call and get a van dispatched to their residence and my understanding was that there was a grant set aside from the federal government that operated that.’
According to transit-insider.org, the Smart Shuttle which provided service for the Northridge area began operating on Sept. 15, 1997 and was run by The City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). Initially the program was intended to be a boon for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), eliminating the need to allocate busses to the areas with lower ridership. CSUN had been part of the West Valley route. However, the program was discontinued on Sept. 28, 2001 due to lack of funding and strains to the MTA’s budget.
Shrake believes that they can succeed in getting the school to expand its current coverage area, even if that means bringing in a corporate sponsor.
‘Hopefully we can get some groundswell support,’ Shrake said. ‘Most students on campus do want a shuttle, they think it’s a good idea and they would use it.’