Last Wednesday, Sept. 22, marked the first operational day for Princeton Transportation and Parking Services (TPS)’s pilot service, TigerAccess. The new transit system offers curb-to-curb transportation for University visitors, students, and faculty members with mobility-related disabilities or medical conditions.
“Think of it as a dedicated shuttle service that can make more connections than our fixed-route service can,” explained TPS director Charlie Tennyson in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
The regular TigerTransit buses are outfitted to be fully accessible. However, Director of the Office of Disability Services Elizabeth Erickson wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’ that there are times when relying on TigerTransit “is not possible or practical” for individuals with disabilities.
“For various reasons, some individuals will benefit from a service that enables them to be picked up and dropped off at specific buildings,” Erickson said in the email.
“TigerAccess will enhance Princeton’s already robust transportation system by personalizing service to individuals who have difficulty using the current shuttle system,” she continued.
There is currently one van in circulation, which will operate within the same area and hours as TigerTransit buses. Users are asked to schedule trips 24 hours in advance to ensure the van’s availability, but TigerAccess will complete last-minute requests if the time slot is available. To schedule a ride, users can submit a request form listed on the Transportation and Parking Services website, or through the TripShot app.
“The app just empowers the user to be a bit more nimble with their requests and then be able to track their ride kind of similar to the way you would think of an Uber or a Lyft,” Tennyson said.
Discussions about having such a service at the University started several years ago, according to Erickson, and was previously considered at an advisory committee for the Office of Disability Services (ODS).
“This has been kind of an evolving conversation on campus, this kind of service,” Tennyson said.
A report issued by the campus mobility framework (a year-long TPS research initiative addressing campus-wide movement) in July 2020 identified a dedicated point-to-point transportation system as one of several accessibility-related recommendations.
According to Tennyson, this report laid the groundwork for TigerAccess’s development, which began in earnest in late spring of last year in cooperation with ODS and other campus partners.
“A number of different groups that engage with students all helped us form this advisory group that met for two to three sessions of planning where we made decisions about the parameters of the service and how it would look at least in its inaugural year,” Tennyson said.
Currently, the vehicle holds up to three passengers (two in the case that one is using a wheelchair or mobility device), and is service dog friendly and wheelchair accessible by lift or ramp. Additionally, when servicing visually impaired riders, drivers will announce stops as the van approaches its destination.
TPS also consulted with several students with mobility challenges, including Naomi Hess ’22, who uses a motorized wheelchair to navigate campus.
“I’m so glad to see it come to fruition,” she said. “I think the ability to get around campus is so important for users and people with disabilities and the service is so incredible because it can increase access where formerly it was very difficult.”
“I know that I will use it in inclement weather situations where it might be difficult to use my wheelchair and this service is so easy and simple, I think it’s really fantastic,” Hess continued.
Hess is an Associate News Editor for the ‘Prince.’
Others, such as Gabby Graves-Wake ’25, intend to use the TigerAccess van on a more regular basis.
“I’m a manual wheelchair user. So that kind of changes things,” she said. “Princeton’s quite hilly and if you look at some of the roads or the sidewalks there are lots of little cracks and weird angles that make it a lot of effort to push around. So I intend to drive whenever I can.”
TPS intends to reconvene on a monthly basis to respond to feedback and continue to adjust the new service to riders’ needs, and they will meet with stakeholder groups and offices that assisted in developing TigerAccess at the end of the semester.
Students can find more information on the service and request a ride by contacting TPS or visiting their website.
Tess Weinreich is a news and features contributor for the 'Prince.' She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to correct information on when TPS will meet with stakeholder groups and offices that assisted in the development of TigerAccess.