New SafeRide Buses Expected; Biodiesel Fuel Switch Coming

A handful of changes should be coming to MIT’s shuttle services this year, as upgrades and route changes take effect across SafeRide, Tech Shuttle, and Northwest Shuttle.

The largest improvement is an increased capacity on SafeRide, according to Lawrence R. Brutti, operations manager at MIT’s Parking and Transportation Office. “We have four new buses coming off the assembly line,” Brutti said. The new buses are the size of the current Tech Shuttle, each with 28 seats and some standing room, which is effectively double the size of current SafeRide buses, according to Brutti.

“We were in the process of replacing vehicles anyway,” Brutti said. “Improvements are an ongoing process … to better serve the students of MIT.”

A series of SafeRide route changes have also been made, mostly on Cambridge East and Cambridge West, in order to accommodate the larger bus sizes. In addition to time changes, the Cambridge West SafeRide now stops at multiple points on River Street, and the Cambridge East route has eliminated some northern stops and added a stop at the intersection of Portland Street and Hampshire Street. The large route changes “all have to do with accommodating bigger vehicles,” Brutti said.

The adjustments were made with input from the student body, specifically representatives from the Panhellenic Association and the graduate student community. “I know there were some communications problems in the past. … But he ran all of [the changes] by us,” said Tiffany W. Guo ’09, representing Panhel.

The full schedules of MIT’s Tech, Northwest, and SafeRide shuttles can be found at

Biodiesel transition

The new SafeRide shuttle buses run on ultra-low sulfur diesel and meet all 2007 emissions standards, making them “cleaner than a car,” Brutti said. Even so, Brutti says the Parking and Transportation Office is actively working to put in a biodiesel filling station in cooperation with the student-run Biodiesel@MIT program.

In April, the Biodiesel@MIT student group won a $25,000 grant through the Ecomagination Challenge sponsored my mtvU and GE, allowing them to purchase a biodiesel processor. The processor will convert used vegetable oil from dining halls into biodiesel fuel that eliminates sulfur dioxide emissions and produces 68 percent less carbon dioxide than petroleum-based alternatives, according to the group’s Ecomagination proposal.

According to Sara A. Barnowski ’10 who worked on the biodiesel project as part of a summer UROP, the program is trying to find space on campus for the fuel processor. “We’re still hoping to get the biodiesel processor installed by the end of IAP,” she said. The current MIT shuttles will not require any modifications to run on biodiesel, Barnowski said.

“We were hoping to have the processor up and running by the school year … but we ran into some red tape,” said Joseph D. Roy-Mayhew ’08 who thought up the project as part of a 2006 Independent Activities Period seminar. “A student group trying to set up that kind of space on campus … just hasn’t been done before,” Roy-Mayhew said.

Brutti said he hoped that the property agreements would come through and that a filling station will soon be built.