Last month, Princeton University announced a restriction on Personal Electric Vehicles (PEVs) during “peak hours,” defined as 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., throughout most of campus. However, this de facto “scooter ban” has been ignored by many and, walking around campus, it is apparent that scooter use is still rampant. While the University has restricted scooter use, it has yet to update the campus transport system that could serve as an alternative: TigerTransit. A Daily Princetonian analysis aptly described the University’s bus system as a “shuttle around the periphery of campus.” But the center of campus, not the periphery, is where students need to travel the most.
Campus has grown and significant portions of the undergraduate student body live far south of where most academic buildings are located. “Space” around campus has changed, and connections between these spaces are not pedestrian-friendly, especially with construction detours and paths. While the University has launched the new Princeton Campus Map app to provide directions, taking into account construction detours and other path changes, this app only provides directions; it cannot magically change the campus landscape to speed up student commutes.
In order to truly speed up student travel, the University should invest in the TigerTransit system to include destinations where all undergraduate students need to go. The current routes do not serve the daily needs of the undergraduate population. For example, the only current TigerTransit route that has a dedicated residential college stop is Route 5, which stops at Yeh College. Even then, Route 5 only operates in the evening.
TigerTransit does not currently provide service where and when undergrads need it most: the morning and evening rush times. The morning “rush” on campus in the minutes leading up to 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. lectures makes Elm Drive crowded with students rushing to class, some walking and many still scootering — despite the official restriction. To alleviate this problem, the University should run a TigerTransit bus route along Elm Drive in a continual loop, starting near Bloomberg Arch, picking up students from Whitman, New College West, Yeh, and Butler, and then shuttling them up campus to East Pyne and McCosh Hall. Even if this route saves just a few minutes for students, TigerTransit can become a resource that students can use, meeting them where they are and not being an out-of-the-way burden. This Elm Drive loop would also decrease the current prohibited scooter use as a quick and convenient bus service would provide an alternative method of transportation for students rushing to class.
TigerTransit also fails to address transport needs during the evening “rush” at the end of classes. This transfer is crucial for athletes, who, according to the 2023 Senior Survey, make up 88 percent of scooter users. Since afternoon classes end at 4:20 p.m. every day, many athletes struggle to be on time for their 4:30 p.m. practice. While 4:20 p.m. is after the scooter ban’s end at 4 p.m., athletes would not have the time to return to their dorms to pick-up their scooters; instead, many scooter to their class, before the ban’s expiration, to ensure a quick transit. It is nearly impossible to reach certain athletic facilities in time from the academic center of campus by walking, which necessitates scooters for transport. One men’s soccer team member told me that he “was only able to make [his] practice on time because of [his] scooter.” Additionally, a member of the men’s water polo team shared that many players who have a semi-torn labrum, a common hip injury, rely on their scooters to get to practice quickly.
A bus service linking the academic center of campus, like the intersection of Washington Road and McCosh Walk, directly with athletic facilities would alleviate this burden. As of now, TigerTransit offers no direct connection to athletic facilities. In addition, according to a ‘Prince’ analysis, TigerTransit’s current routers offer “travel times that are the same or longer than walking times to athletic facilities down campus.” A different dedicated route could help solve this problem.
TigerTransit expansion, however, has benefits for the entire undergraduate student body, not just athletes. The Elm Drive shuttle, for example, would become a vital connection throughout campus for students traveling to residential colleges, classes, or facilities like Dillon Gym. The creation of new shuttles is also much-needed because PEV safety is an issue; the University shared with the ‘Prince’ that there were 54 safety incidents involving PEVs in the 2022-23 academic year — and those were just the reported incidents.
However, TigerTransit expansion shouldn’t be the only change made to campus; it should be the first of many changes. A pedestrian-friendly, convenient, and accessible campus also requires the implementation of protected bike and scooter lanes separate from pedestrian traffic, as is currently being adopted in cities across the world en masse, including a significant program in New York City. Even while the University is making massive investments in construction, when asked about specific PEV and pedestrian safety plans, a spokesperson commented, “as a part of the campus plan, infrastructure to best support pedestrian and wheeled mobility on campus will be modernized to improve the overall experience for all mobility types.” They shared no specific plans to implement safe corridors for bikes and scooters.
So far, the University has failed to provide an adequate replacement to PEVs to address the transport needs of a growing campus. The “scooter ban” isn’t working because Princeton’s geography requires a fast way to travel around campus. The University’s choice to prohibit scooter use during their most needed hours necessitates a feasible alternative. If it were convenient and accessible for undergraduates, TigerTransit could serve as that transportation option. Thus, Princeton must expand the TigerTransit system where undergrads need it the most: between residential colleges and academic buildings with a central Elm Drive shuttle, as well as between more class locations and athletic practice facilities.
Preston Ferraiuolo is a sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y., intending to major in the School of Public and International Affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.