After the previous system was discontinued in 2020 due to a lack of funding and an increase in COVID-19 cases, Palo Alto has announced plans to implement a new on-demand shuttle service in the spring of 2023.
Transportation Manager Sylvia Star-Lack told The Campanile that people who are going to the same place will generally be picked up in the same vehicle. The new service will also denote key destinations based on the most frequent requests. At this point, there is no information about whether Palo Alto High School will become a regular destination.
To restore the previous shuttle’s benefits to students, The Campanile urges the city of Palo Alto to establish a destination at Paly and clarify whether the service will efficiently provide students with transportation to and from school.
Star-Lack said the new shuttle service resembles Uber and Lyft. Users will be able to request a ride through an app or a phone call. People with similar destinations will be grouped together to optimize routes.
While this new system will likely benefit most people in the city, it is unclear whether students will be able to ride the shuttle to get to school. Moreover, the times that students can access the shuttle have not been disclosed.
The city should release information before the system is established so students can assess whether this service will be available for them at the time of its inception.
While specific information about the routes has not been established, Star-Lack told The Campanile that high school students can take the shuttle to other locations in town, even if Paly isn’t a stop along the way.
Nevertheless, The Campanile praises the new system’s low fares which will benefit a broader range of people and support students of low-income backgrounds. Star-Lack said fares will be $1 for senior citizens and $3.50 for other passengers.
Additionally, some shuttles will be plug-in electric or electric hybrid vehicles, reducing the system’s carbon emissions.
Each vehicle is also required to provide bike racks, serving as an advantage to students who live farther and further encouraging environmentally-friendly transportation.
While environmentally-conscious, the fleet will only consist of nine shuttles that will go across Palo Alto, raising concerns as to whether there will be enough vehicles to allow students to comfortably depend on the shuttle for transportation to and from their campus.
Furthermore, Star-Lack told The Campanile that passengers may have to walk a short distance to the shuttle and to their destination. If students do have to walk to and from the shuttle, The Campanile questions how the shuttle will ensure the safety of younger passengers, if not all students.
While the new system’s low fares and environmentally-conscious vehicles are positive developments, we ask the city to clarify the specific routes that Paly students will be able to access and what measures to ensure the safety of student passengers will be implemented.
The Campanile urges the city to ensure that Paly is a designated stop to best restore the former benefits of affordable and consistent public transportation to students. In this way, Palo Alto will preserve a valuable and necessary service for students while ensuring community safety.