On Nov. 2, the GU-Q campus facility announced the student shuttle service discontinuity from Dec. 31, 2020. They noted the existing QF free daily student shuttle service schedule in the corresponding email. Following up on this information, The Gazette tracked the campus facility, students, and the shuttle drivers to get their opinion on this news.
Inquiring the backdrop that set off student shuttle service, the GU-Q Communications team elaborated on the timeline of commencement of the student shuttle service. “The shuttle service was put in place at a time when there was extraordinary construction within and in the vicinity of Education City (EC), and commuting to and moving within EC was a greater challenge. At the time the shuttle service was instituted in 2010, Georgetown was operating from two buildings, and the shuttle assisted with providing a convenient service between the two buildings. Once we moved to the current building, the shuttle service was limited to evenings and weekends to supplement the QF shuttle, which at that time did not serve evenings and weekends.” they said.
As for the last ten years, this service has been instrumental for the students of Georgetown University in Qatar and Cornell University in Qatar. On a call basis, the service operated in the evenings on a 5 p.m.-1 a.m. schedule on weekdays and a 2 p.m-2 a.m. schedule on weekends. Until last year, before the Doha metro launch, it transported students to malls on weekends. Students rely heavily on this service to navigate campus, student dormitories, metro stations, and recreation centers inside the EC.
In the same reply, the GU-Q Communications team cleared the position that “based on the available options we do not anticipate a need for a future supplementary shuttle.” They informed us that “QF [transportation] has expanded its shuttle service in the evenings and during the weekends. Other modes of transportation, such as the metro, have commenced providing access from outside of EC. The Education City Tram is currently running on the Academic Loop and is expected to expand service in the months ahead.”
The existing 24/7 QF transportation service and the forthcoming EC tram are the only alternatives to the student shuttle service. Indeed, these means are equally essential mediums of daily transportation. However, a student shuttle service is received as a complimentary service and not a supplementary, differing from the campus’s response. The convenience, efficiency, and privilege that the students’ shuttle service provided make this service unique to Georgetown students.
The QF transportation runs on a fixed schedule of every 15 minutes in an hour except on a call basis from 10 p.m.-6 a.m. QF transportation provides an extensive service for all the Education City universities’ students connecting to their destinations. The objective of QF transportation appears to transport everyone inside the EC following a specific loop in a particular time frame.
Khansa Maria, Class of 2021, thinks “the campus student shuttle was an expression of the fact that the university actually cares a bit from how we [students] get from one place to another.” Remembering her four years at the university, she expresses that “the QF transportation institution, on the whole, is unreliable to get us from one place to another and to make sure we stay connected with our peers.”
QF transportation could be inconvenient for travelling inside EC, especially in the evening. Also, QF transportation usually does not offer a stop at metro stations and Awsaj Recreation Center. Thus QF transportation could be unreliable for students who depend entirely on the student shuttle service. GU-Q shuttle service responds to requests in around five minutes on average. With just a call away, the student shuttle saves time from waiting for the bus and finding bus stops or routes, as QF transportation requires. Undoubtedly, the shuttle service has made it very comforting to travel around the QF facilities and took off the pressure of being lost.
The efficiency of traveling with the student shuttle connects students with friends, campus, and recreation facilities. Based on anecdotal evidence, the QF transportation takes approximately an extra 10-15 minutes to arrive depending on the destination, compared to the campus shuttle. To go swimming at the recreation center from the male housing on a busy weekend, a person would waste 20-30 more minutes on travel if the student shuttle service is to be discontinued. So, there is a reason for this service to be understood as a complimentary service to QF transportation.
This news is also very upsetting because two diligent staff members will have to bid farewell to the shuttle service. Charles and Hamza are crucial members of the GU-Q community. When asked about the drivers’ futures, the Communications team responded that, “the drivers will likely remain with their [contract] company.”
Iman Ismail, Class of 2022, says, “the GUQ shuttle drivers are as much a part of the GUQ community as any student, staff, or faculty, and it’s tough to see them go. Not only have they provided great service, but their amiability, kindness, and amazing playlists have made us value their service all the more.”
Hamza Omar Hassan came to Doha in 2015, when started working as shuttle driver for Georgetown shuttle. The 38-year-old got his driving license when he worked as a salesman for a company in Saudi Arabia before coming to Qatar. He is a father to a seven-month baby daughter, whom he has not met yet. His love for Bongo flava and hip hop music is well known to anyone who had pleasure to travel in his shuttle.
Hamza reflects on his five years of service to Georgetown and sees it as a beautiful time spent with family. He gladly says, “the amazing students, staff, and professors have been like family to me, and I feel good to have associated with them.” He fondly remembers the communication he has with alumni who graduated three years back and their visit to him in Doha. He shares warm friendships, loyal service, and connections as his takeaway from his Georgetown journey.
More than anything, Hamza says he would miss participating in Georgetown activities and sharing victories and defeats with Georgetown basketball and football teams, which unfortunately couldn’t happen this year due to the pandemic.
Khansa also strongly expresses “deep gratitude to Charles and Hamza for their ability to appear whenever we needed them… to brighten our days with their conversation and make us cheerful.” She gladly remembers a good friendship she developed with Charles and Hamza. “Especially with Hamza, it went beyond him taking me from one place to another; it was about him telling me to quit Coke because it’s unhealthy or me getting him Karak because I was getting myself a Karak… These human connections we have built with them, we are so grateful to them for being with us in this journey”. As a visually impaired student, Khansa describes accessibility as to how Hamza was concerned about the best way to ensure her access to QF places without encountering any random obstacles. She profoundly appreciates their service.
As the contract ends at the end of December, the campus will decide on the service’s future. This is everything we know about the update on shuttle service from the campus facility. It should give an idea about rethinking the contract from the student body and reconvene feasibly.