One day this week I decided to stroll onto Bruin Walk on my way back to my apartment. Usually, I try to avoid Bruin Walk because of the hill and the crowds, but that day, I decided I wanted to see if anything has changed around the dorm areas. It is an odd feeling walking towards a place that is so familiar to me, a place where I can walk with my eyes shut and still know my way around, only to realize that as I scan the faces passing by that I do not recognize any of them.

This nostalgia completely vanished when I spotted a beautiful, newly painted Bruin Bus coming from Hedrick Dining Hall. So, I stopped at the traffic light near De Neve Plaza and watched this bus drop off students who just ate at Hedrick and pick up students waiting to take a three-minute bus ride to Hedrick from De Neve to eat lunch and dinner. Color me dumbfounded.

There are four dining halls at UCLA: De Neve, Covel, Reiber and Hedrick. However, not all four are equally populated nor are they all the same size. De Neve is the largest and populated to the point of being overcrowded, while Hedrick is modest in size and student traffic. Each dining hall has different cuisines and specialties. Hedrick is the only dining hall that serves sushi and organic salad. Reiber is sort of pan-Asian, while Covel is Italian. De Neve is everything-orientated and unexpectedly super delicious, which is probably why it is the most popular.

Around 6:30 p.m., De Neve would get so crowded that you would have to wait outside the dining hall a good 10 minutes so it would be clear of several students before you could enter. De Neve has always been crowded but it is especially so this year because of the unprecedented number of students living on the hill.

Because De Neve is overpopulated while Hedrick is underpopulated, the problem of unused resources surfaces. While servers at Hedrick are waiting for students to enter, the servers at De Neve cannot put together a burger fast enough for all the starving students waiting in line. There has to be some solution UCLA can devise of in attempt to alleviate this problem. And so this is why there is a fancy trolley shuttling students from De Neve to Hedrick.

The Hedrick Dining Express that comes to De Neve turns around every 10 minutes to drive students to Hedrick. UCLA probably thinks that the incentive of not walking half a mile to Hedrick trumps whatever incentives De Neve has. The goal is to motivate the use of Hedrick and to spread out the students. Clearly, if more students ate at Hedrick (the farthest dining hall from campus), then the crowds at De Neve would lessen.

But the con is even though the walk to Hedrick from campus might be tiring, the wait at the De Neve might take twice the time it takes to walk. Not all students have two hour blocks in their schedules to dedicate to lunch. Most students just want to eat a quick lunch and head back to campus, which is easiest to do at De Neve since it is so close to campus. However, the crowds at De Neve would lengthen the lunch time anyway. To me, the crowds at De Neve itself would already discourage me from eating at De Neve and choose Hedrick.

But that is just the lunch problem. During dinner, students have more time and so they are willing to spend more time at De Neve and know they are going to have a good meal. It is almost as if De Neve has branded itself as the great dining experience versus Hedrick which is hit-or-miss. It is hard to change students’ preferences when their minds already trust that they will like the food at De Neve 80 percent but maybe only 50 percent at Hedrick.

Even before UCLA Dining decided to shuttle students from De Neve to Hedrick, UCLA Transportation already received the trolley from UC Riverside. We are assured that the cost to operate the trolley is not great at all. Despite the trolley’s efforts, the statistics show that Hedrick remains underused despite the crowds at De Neve. The trolley is in its initial stages and might stay or go.

Looking at this problem from an economic viewpoint is interesting, but watching the trolley take students half a mile from one food source to another is ridiculous. Can we get any lazier these days? Should there be an elevator that replaces the huge stairs from Sproul Hall to Hedrick Hall? I would be much more appreciative of a free trolley from Murphy Hall to Gayley Avenue, but I guess UCLA will not design a shuttle for that until all of Dickson Court is so congested that no one can maneuver around.

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