The Student Government Association (SGA) and the Office of Transportation have spearheaded the expansion of the Blue Jay Shuttle service to include a new route that goes to Hampden. For the past four Saturdays, the new shuttle line has run from 12:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
“The main reason that we wanted to start a shuttle to Hampden was because we wanted to encourage students to get off campus more and integrate us more into the Baltimore community,” freshman SGA Senator Adelaide Morphett said. “There’s this awesome, quirky city right outside our doors, and I think we should get out and explore it.”
Senior SGA Senator Jake Peters, agreed with Morphett.
“Students in general don’t get out into the city of Baltimore as much as they probably should or as much as they want to,” Peters said. “A lot of it has to do with access.”
Since last semester, Morphett has been working on this project with Peters and SGA Senior Class President Sean Glass in a subcommittee of Student Services Committee, a group within the SGA.
Executive SGA President Alex Schupper was also involved in the process. Greg Smith, the associate director of parking and transportation, played a role in the decision to extend shuttle service to Hampden in particular.
The planners also considered Towson and Fells Point as shuttle destinations, but since students can already take the Charm City Circulator, the MTA or the JHMI to those neighborhoods, they decided against them.
“When we were considering what would be most cost-effective, what would hopefully get the most ridership and what would be sustainable and [approved by] the administration, it was Hampden,” Morphett said. “That was probably my favorite [proposed destination].”
Before the committee took action to make changes, students were able to take the shuttle to Hampden only through utilizing the Blue Jay Shuttle’s Night Ride service.
“[Hampden is] just far enough that walking is impractical in a lot of cases,” Smith said. “The costs of doing it are minimal for a short period of time.”
Peters also supported the institution of the new route.
“We like the idea of having a direct route to a place like Hampden where people want to go a lot,” Peters said. “[Visiting Hampden] can be more spontaneous.”
The Blue Jay Shuttle currently runs four other lines as well as the 33rd Street Connector. The Hampden line will be unique from the other four in that it goes directly to a specific venue and back rather than making multiple stops along a fixed route. Like other lines, the Hampden line picks students up at the Brody Learning Commons (BLC).
The Hampden line is still on trial. According to Smith, the office of transportation will finalize the decision on whether or not to make the new shuttle line permanent later this summer. The SGA is financing the spring trial run, which cost approximately $500, but the Blue Jay Shuttle budget will fund the Hampden line if it is reinstated permamently next fall.
The decision will be based on the Hampden line’s ridership and reviews throughout the remainder of this spring semester, which will have run on seven Saturdays in total. So far, Smith has ridden the shuttle twice and Morphett will be riding it for the first time this coming weekend.
“Everyone that’s used it has been very happy with it,” Peters said. “I think that it’s one of those programs that you can’t really judge off just a few weeks in the spring.”
When Smith asked riders whether they appreciated the service, he received many positive reviews. However, he says he has not received as much feedback as he would have liked to hear.
“In a perfect world, we would have conducted a trial during both the fall and the spring semester,” Smith said. “If we decide not to do the service on a year-round basis, we may still run it in the fall before making a determination.”
Members of the Student Services Committee used posters, flash ads and Facebook networking to advertise the establishment of the new shuttle service.
“We tried to publicize it as much as we can, but I think it’s hard to streamline information to students, and I don’t think everyone knows about it yet,” Morphett said.
The SGA also contacted businesses in the Hampden area to try and arrange discounts for Hopkins students.
“There were a lot of positive receptions, but not a lot of follow-through,” Peters said.
Schupper did advertise one major discount in an email to the student body prior to the first Saturday that the Hampden route was in service. If students showed their Hopkins IDs, they were offered 50 percent off of their purchases at Grano Pasta Bar and Grano Emporio in Hampden.
Schupper’s email did not specify when this discount would expire. However, according to Gino Troia, the owner of Grano Emporio, this 50 percent discount only applied from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on March 29, which was the first Saturday of the Hampden line’s trial run.
“To introduce ourselves to students, we will do 50 percent off on that day … for five hours,” Troia said. “Now, everybody’s calling here to see if we are actually doing 50 percent off the check … That is the wrong information, and I am actually very embarrassed if someone has deceived a student like that.”
However, according to senior Sean Glass, two students informed the SGA that they were not offered the 50 percent discount when they went to Grano on the afternoon of March 29.
Because the SGA only received hearsay evidence from both of the parties that were involved, it is unable to make a conclusion or take action.
“I can’t say definitively that they didn’t [receive a discount],” Glass said.
Overall, both Morphett and Smith had positive reviews of the new service to Hampden.
“I think it’s a great connection to Hampden and encourage students to take advantage of it as they look to get out into Baltimore more,” Smith said. “Hampden has a lot to offer, especially great restaurants and eclectic shops … Management is excited about the trial and would like to see its success.”
“I hope that everyone just takes this opportunity to get out there, have fun [and] embrace this beautiful weather and the cool neighborhood that’s literally right outside our door,” Morphett said.