Nfld. & Labrador

Grocery shuttle at MUN a godsend for students without vehicles

After Churchill Square's last grocery store closed, food shopping meant a long walk for students — so the shuttle is in high demand.

Shuttle picks up outside Corte Real Residence, Burton’s Pond Road

Students gather at the grocery shuttle pickup early to beat the crowds. (Stephen Miller)

A large yellow school bus might seem out of place at Memorial University, but considering the demand for the grocery shuttle, a lesser vehicle wouldn't cut it.

Liam O'Neill, executive director of finance and services on MUN's student union, says a shuttle from the campus to the Kelsey Drive Sobeys and back appeals particularly to international students.

There's a lot of international students that probably aren't as familiar with the area.- Liam O'Neill

"There's a lot of international students that probably aren't as familiar with the area," O'Neill said.

"And having the accessibility to get on a bus on campus and get on the grocery store definitely helps a lot."

The grocery shuttle has been in operation for about three years. The service originally picked students up every half-hour on Tuesdays between 6 and 9 p.m., but recently started picking up at 5 p.m. due to demand.

After the closure of Churchill Square's last grocery store in 2012, the service became a priority for the student union, as students were no longer in close proximity to any major grocery stores.

Liam O'Neill is the executive director of finance and services for MUN's student union. He says they hope to expand the service due to demand. (Stephen Miller)

O'Neill says the service is a collaboration between MUNSU, the Graduate Students' Union and the grocery store itself.

Several different grocery stores have been involved in the service since it began, but O'Neill hopes the current arrangement, which includes a discount for students, lasts.

"The bus right now is provided by the Sobeys at Kelsey Drive. We work with them to provide it, and the last couple of years they've been our provider," O'Neill said. "It is absolutely awesome, and I hope we get to continue it for a very, very long time."

In high demand

Since its inception the shuttle service has been in high demand. Sometimes the crowd that gathers at the bus stop is so large the school bus cannot contain them and some are forced to wait 30 minutes for the next run.

Student Tousif Habib has been using the service about every two weeks for a year.

"It's free. It's convenient because I live nearby the university so it's pretty convenient to come and go," Habib said.

These students have finished their shopping and wait to board the bus at Sobeys on Kelsey Drive. (Stephen Miller)

Princess Chimemerigo Ilonze has been at MUN for only two months and she's been using the service since she started.

"They bring us here on Tuesdays, so there's a discount, so it's really useful. And the alternative is to walk all the way down Elizabeth [Avenue]. This is way better," Ilonze said.

Gustavo Diaz made use of the service for the first time this week. He is a fan of the service but took minor issue with the overeagerness of some of his fellow passengers.

"It was a rough start, I would say. A bunch of people trying to get into the bus. They didn't want to wait in line so that's kind of the only problem I found," Diaz said.

Gustavo Diaz likes the service but wishes students were a little less aggressive when attempting to board the bus.

MUNSU has been trying to improve the service, with the earlier start time and additional coverage. This past spring/summer semester was the first time the service was offered to intersession students.

The student union hopes to expand with an extra bus and more days of service.

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About the Author

Stephen Miller is a contributor to CBC News in St. John's. You can reach him by email at stephen.miller@cbc.ca