After the Henderson bus stop was removed amid recent bus scheduling changes, the residents of Henderson Apartments on Douglass campus successfully advocated for the reinstatement of the stop, citing safety concerns.
The Henderson Apartments is a Rutgers residence hall that exclusively houses women and gender minority students, according to its Rutgers webpage.
The residence hall originally had a bus stop located close to the building, but it was removed before the start of the semester, according to Henderson resident and School of Arts and Sciences senior Christina Evans.
She said that the Henderson bus stop's removal has forced Henderson residents to cross an active intersection and walk a long distance to get to the next nearest stop.
“I was frustrated because I have a knee injury. The removal of the bus stop caused me to have to walk further distances,” she said.
Henry Velez, vice president of Business Services at the University, said the Henderson bus stop’s removal was part of a wider reconstruction of the Rutgers bus route system that occurred earlier this year.
He said that before the ongoing pandemic, students were dissatisfied with how long buses took to get between campuses and how frequently they arrived at bus stops. Velez said that in spring 2021, he and other University officials began reviewing the bus routes and making recommendations for changes to combat inefficiency.
He said that factors they took into account while revising the bus routes included walking distances from commuter parking lots, residence halls and academic buildings, connectivity to existing sidewalks and bike paths, University community input and ridership numbers.
“We then selected which bus stops would remain in service in order to best balance getting students to classes as quickly as possible while ensuring transit access across campus,” Velez said.
Evans cited safety concerns as one of the main issues that arose from the Henderson stop's removal, especially since the apartments primarily house women and gender minority students. Evans said the identities of the hall’s residents make them more vulnerable to danger.
“Henderson students were all outraged at the callousness of the University to remove a stop for a building on the very edge of campus that houses individuals at higher risk for assault,” she said.
Victoria Horner, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and another Henderson resident, said she did not even realize that the stop had been removed until right before classes began. She said the stop’s removal was frustrating and made her feel like Rutgers did not care about the Henderson residents.
“Being a residency for women and gender minorities at the (far) end of the entire Rutgers campus makes the bus stop issue much more of a serious issue than someone in the middle of campus,” she said.
Horner said that there was a clear consensus among Henderson residents that the removal of the bus stop was a significant concern that required action to be taken. Evans said that the process of getting the bus stop back was frustrating due to the bureaucracy involved.
She said that she emailed academic administration, the University transportation department, and even University President Jonathan Holloway multiple times before receiving a reply.
Eventually, she came into contact with Jacquelyn Litt, dean of Douglass campus, with whom she planned a Zoom call between Henderson residents and Douglass campus staff. Evans said the Zoom call was productive and the residents found support from some Douglass staff members.
Horner said that initially, the administration was surprised by the Henderson residents’ push to reinstate the bus stop and the process was fairly intense in the beginning. Since then, the administration has worked to communicate with the residents and promised to reinstate the bus stop on Oct. 4.
Velez said that students, faculty and staff have been helpful in evaluating the new bus routes and administration will soon be sending out a survey to all students to gain more input. He said that administrators will continue to meet with Henderson residents in the future to discuss plans for the next fall semester.
Horner said it is important for students to realize that the University can make changes to accommodate students’ comfort and safety. Evans said that while she is glad that the stop was reinstated, the process of advocating for the cause was still tiring for her.
“I hope people realize that you have to have compassion and can’t brush off someone when they assert there is an issue,” she said. “I also hope this is a message to both students and staff that we need to be heard and we will make sure our needs are met.”