Concordia hears student’s shuttle concerns

Faculty members and students get together to discuss the neverending shuttle bus issue.

Concordia students and faculty members gathered on Tuesday, Jan. 18 to discuss an ongoing issue at the university: the shuttle bus.

Among those present at the conference were Roger Côté, Vice President, Services at Concordia, Desmond O’Neill, the university’s Manager of Transportations, Mail and Facility Management, representatives of the Facebook page Spotted: Concordia, as well as a number of engaged students.

Complaints as well as solutions were discussed.

Spotted: Concordia posted on their page about the event, informing students that the faculty was willing to listen to their ideas on how to improve the shuttle services. The representatives read the comments aloud to those in attendance.

The comments ranged from the lack of communication between the drivers and the shuttle bus riders to critiques of the digital screen at the bus stop and how it is seen as practically useless. Above all, attendees insisted that the bus is unreliable and inefficient. Many concerns and ideas that were raised were repetitive and similar.

Professors, as well as students, commented on the bus’ schedule—it is not coordinated with classes, nor does it account for the busiest times of the day, which leads to the bus being often overpacked. Students also mention its infrequency, and the absence of buses during weekends is inconvenient for students living in residences.

But, perhaps the most common complaints were about the riders’ inability to open the windows, and one particular driver’s dangerous driving. They remained unnamed, but the numerous nods indicated that everyone knew who the driver was.

While one driver was praised for their friendliness and kindness towards the students, another was criticized for their blatant road-rage, and as a result, their careless driving.

One student seemed especially exasperated.“One time, we almost curbed a biker,” he said.

“Once they got in a fight with another driver on Ste. Catherine, and practically chased them down the street,” a professor said. “It was not pretty.”

Ideas put forth for possible solutions included installing free wifi on the bus for students to study during traffic jams, improving the Concordia app for tracking purposes and informing students about possible issues with the bus. Additionally, the possibility of increasing the number of buses was also considered—more specifically, having them come every 15 to 20 minutes.

As the conference neared its end, O’Neill was asked if he had ever calculated the number of people who took the shuttle.

“There’s about three-quarter of a million people who take the shuttle per year,” he answered confidently. “We are working on maintaining the service, and enhancing the safety.”

“There seems to be a convergence on the issues,” Côté said. “We will make sure to get to a mutual agreement and respond to each and every one of your demands.”


Photo by Britanny Clarke 


Stepping in and speaking out against racism

A student’s experience witnessing a racist altercation on Concordia’s shuttle bus

I am a third-year student at Concordia. In all my time at this institution, I had never witnessed a racist altercation. That changed on Oct. 23.

I was on the Concordia shuttle bus heading to the downtown campus when I overheard a conversation between a white male student and a black male student. The white student told his peer that he wouldn’t excel at teaching a certain subject because he is black. The white student went on to state that certain things should preferably be taught by white people instead of black people.

I was completely shocked by the comment. The black student, a Concordia Stingers player based on his attire, tried to calmly explain to his fellow teammate that the comment was offensive, racist and untrue. Not only did the white student deny that his comment was racist, he also became verbally aggressive, calling his teammate various vulgar names.

As a witness, I was extremely taken aback by this situation. Not only was I shocked that something like this would happen in an arguably progressive society, but that it happened on the school bus. Shouldn’t the school bus be a safe and comfortable space for all students? We all come to school for the same reasons—to get an education. In this day and age, especially at a school as culturally diverse as Concordia, I would assume students would be safe from this type of behaviour.

Following the incident, I continued to feel unsettled and angry that this happened, and was frustrated with myself for not stepping in when I had the chance. I noticed a few other students around me looked uncomfortable, but not enough for them to react apparently. Everyone simply sat quietly in their seat.

Personally, the fact that the white student had become loud and aggressive stopped me from speaking up. I was afraid of angering him and making the situation worse, as well as putting myself in a compromising position.
The situation made me wonder: Why did the white student feel he had the right to talk down to his peer and question his abilities? The fact that the white student would not acknowledge that his comment was racist is an even bigger issue. The presence of this closed mindset in our generation has deeply affected me. Needless to say, the colour of a person’s skin or where they come from should not make them inferior nor superior to anyone else.

Truthfully, while the white student’s comment was appalling, the reality is that there were many people at fault in this situation. Every Concordia student on that bus played a very important role, myself included. The fact that none of us stood up for the young man or spoke up against the blatant racism is completely wrong. I thought our generation was better than that.

By pretending we did not hear the racist comment, by downplaying what the white student said, by telling ourselves that the situation didn’t concern us, each one of us on that bus reinforced the notion that this type of behaviour is normal. This lack of response desensitizes us to this kind of behaviour, and that is unacceptable. Our apathy must end. The only way we can end racism is by educating each other through intervention and by sharing our stories.
We have to start with ourselves and make our school the best place it can be for every student and faculty member. If every student on the bus that day had spoken up, perhaps the white student would have changed his mindset and taken the situation seriously.

Concordia prides itself on being open and safe, and it should be. Everyone should feel comfortable and safe at school. I hope that, by sharing my story, I have helped raise awareness about racism on campus and the importance of intervening when something like this occurs. Witnessing this event truly opened my eyes to the problem of racism. From now on, I plan to intervene and stand up against this intolerable behaviour.

It only takes one person to start a chain reaction of positive change. If this piece helped open the eyes of just one student to this issue, then it’s a step in the right direction.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Concordia app: Cost unknown

University’s mobile tool gives access to shuttle bus schedules, directories and more

Concordia’s administration is keeping silent on the cost of its new mobile app. When The Concordian asked about it, the university responded that the “cost for licensing the app was minimal.”  

The app, which was released in August, has already been downloaded more than 1,000 times. It provides students with information about shuttle bus schedules, food around campus, health and safety resources and other subjects.

The university also would not confirm if the cost was within the projected budget, where the funding came from, the cost of maintenance or the expected return on investment.

Version 1.4.0 of the app––its latest––allows the university to access the user’s approximate or precise location, depending on whether the phone is network-based or GPS-based. It can also read the photo, media and file content of the phone’s USB storage, according to Google Play.

According to university spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr, “all the work was and will continue to be done in-house.” In the same email, Barr wrote that “an analysis was made to learn which apps were offered to students by other universities and, within those offerings, which apps were used most often by students.”

Two universities in Quebec currently offer mobile applications to their students, namely Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and McGill University. While it’s unknown how much Concordia spent to develop the app, Montreal-based Oohlala Mobile Inc. bidded $67,200 to acquire the contract to build McGill’s app, according to a public call for bids on Quebec’s Service électronique d’appel d’offre.

Oohlala Mobile has also developed apps for Rutgers and Seattle University as well as Harvard Law School.

Barr said in early 2017, consultations were held with various university offices and departments, including Student Services Departments, Library and Services and various faculties, to determine what information should be included in the app. The app was then tested for feedback by 180 students during fall orientation.

According to Barr, Concordia will continue to expand and improve the app according to user feedback.

“As feedback comes in, the team will evaluate whether new features can and should be added, and how long it will take to do so,” Barr wrote.

The app currently has an average 3.8/5-star rating on Google Play, including 15 five-star ratings and six one-star ratings.

According to the university spokesperson, information about faculty, staff, alumni and recruitment “will likely be added” in future versions of the app.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


From Loyola to SGW for 40 years

Looking back at the Concordia shuttle since its debut in 1976

Concordia’s shuttle has changed a lot since its inception 40 years ago. Originally proposed in the 1960s as part of the merger between Loyola College and Sir George Williams University, the shuttle was a critical part of the formation of what is now Concordia University.

Administrators at both schools agreed during their negotiations that students needed a way to get to and from classes at the picturesque Loyola campus in the sleepy west-end NDG neighbourhood and the SGW campus on De Maisonneuve in downtown Montreal.

According to Desmond O’Neill, longtime manager of Concordia’s shuttle system, the first recorded evidence of the shuttle in action is a photo from 1976 which shows the lone Dodge panel van that would make the journey only a few times per day. Students had to make reservations in advance to make sure they had a seat.

Since those humble beginnings, the shuttle has grown to match the development of the university. The school now runs four buses simultaneously from Monday to Friday, with 94 departures per day from both the SGW and Loyola campus, according to Concordia’s office of property management. Driver-reported passenger data shows that the shuttle system moved 80,000 passengers in September 2016, at an average of over 4,000 riders per day.

During the 2015-2016 school year, over 700,000 Concordia students and faculty members took advantage of the free system, according to O’Neill.

The system isn’t without issues. If you’ve taken the shuttle recently, you may have noticed the bus taking a different route every time to bypass construction and traffic. In some cases, this has made the travel time longer.

O’Neill said while he understands riders’ confusion, the the current state of road work in Montreal makes shuttle consistency more difficult than ever. According to O’Neill, drivers often do not know about road closures ahead of time and are forced to adjust their routes on the fly. He said he wishes the city would alert him about construction so that he could warn drivers in advance.

In September 2016 the shuttle was responsible for the commute of 80,000 passengers. Photo by Adrian Knowler.

“We do have some contact with city government but it’s not the best,” said O’Neill. “When the city does road work, they may not know the 100 people or businesses it affects.”

According to O’Neill, ideally there would only be a couple of routes that drivers would take but, because of constant construction and changing traffic patterns, bus drivers have to utilize up to five alternate routes. Drivers talk to each other via wireless headsets while en route, updating their colleagues about traffic and construction situations.

O’Neill said he is pleased with how the shuttle service generally meets the needs of its users, but that he’s always open to suggestions from students.

Concordia student and cyclist Ayrton Wakfer wants to see bike racks added to the buses.

“When I bike to Loyola and it starts raining, I know that I’ll have to ride home in the rain,” said Wakfer. “It would be great if I could put my bike on the front of shuttle.”

According to O’Neill, the shuttle system plans to install a screen on the Hall building that will indicate the location of all the buses via GPS, and there is talk of adding WiFi capability to the shuttles so students can study during their commute.

When Montreal road work calms down in 18 months and these new features are implemented, the Loyola-SGW shuttle is poised to continue its impressive run, now 40 years in the making.


Roadwork around ConU still causing problems

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

The renovations outside of Concordia University set to finish this Friday may be delayed for an undetermined amount of time.

The construction started this summer, with the city of Montreal revamping and repaving De Maisonneuve Blvd. from Bishop St. to St-Mathieu St. to include a bike path, green space and an extended sidewalk. While the portion between Guy St. and St-Mathieu St. reopened this month, the rest of the construction is supposed to finish by the end of September.

According to university spokesperson, Chris Mota, the Public Works project slated to finish this Friday, Sept. 28 may be behind schedule.

“The roadwork is the city’s construction and it’s on their schedule,” said Mota. “Based on their work, ours can only follow.”

“I do believe it’s a little past schedule,” added Mota. “With construction, until it’s done we don’t know.”
Since the roadwork is entirely governed by the city of Montreal, the university aims to update their website regularly to inform students about the progress of the renovations.

The construction and blocked off De Maisonneuve Blvd. have caused headaches for students traveling between the downtown and Loyola campuses. The roadwork forced Concordia to change the location of the shuttle bus stop from in front of the Henry F. Hall Building to the corner of Ste-Catherine St. and Mackay St., before it moved to Bishop St. and De Maisonneuve Blvd., until completion.

According to undergraduate student Amrit Kaur, the additional traffic due to the construction made her late for class.

“It took me 35 minutes from downtown to Loyola,” said Kaur. “Usually when I take the shuttle it’s between 15 and 20 minutes.”

Kaur insists that the shuttle is still the quickest commute from one campus to the other and that she tries to leave earlier to ensure she’s not late for her courses.

Brittany Williams experienced the same delay when she travelled from Loyola to downtown recently.

“It’s always a little frustrating to drive an extra five to 10 minutes just so the shuttle bus can let us off near our actual stop,” explained Williams.

Bus driver Fernand Groulx said there’s no remedy to the situation until the construction is over.

“You can’t do anything,” said Groulx. “There’s now construction between St-Jacques St. and Upper Lachine too, it happens.”

Groulx emphasized that construction is merely part of his job and the commute between the two campuses – while he may be delayed – didn’t make his day any harder.

Williams suggested that Concordia provide extra shuttle busses to offset the traffic that snarls up the downtown core due to the construction.

“Considering the construction is the city’s fault, the university could perhaps revisit the shuttle schedule,” said Williams. “They can see if they can make some changes or additions so there will be less delays or inconveniences.”

Public Works of the city of Montreal could not be reached for comment by press time.

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