Future of #171 stop uncertain

By Supriya Sinhababu

[img id=”80434″ align=”alignleft”] Alderman Leslie Hairston has agreed in a letter to President Robert Zimmer to delay her final decision on the removal of the #171 bus stop at South University Avenue and East 57th Street until she has held a meeting to gauge community opinion, University administration said on Friday in a discussion about the stop.

“After conversations we’ve had with the alderman this week, we’re hopeful that we’re going to resolve this issue,” said Associate Vice President of Community and Government Affairs Susan Campbell in a prepared statement.

The date and location for the alderman’s community meeting have not yet been set. Administrators said Hairston had suggested Mandel Hall as the meeting place and that they had notified her of the University’s spring break dates to accommodate students interested in attending.

“No one should change their spring break plans,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Life Bill Michel. “It is our expectation that she will have it soon after [students] get back.”

The administration also publicly apologized for failing to confirm the relocation of the stop with the alderman last summer.

“In the past, the University has worked with the alderman’s office, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and the Chicago Department of Transportation to locate bus stops all around campus as a kind of collaborative process,” Campbell said.

“In this instance we did not confirm that the alderman was notified so that she would have an opportunity to hold a public meeting to discuss the moving of the bus stop, which is her typical process,” Campbell said. “So we apologize for that. It was an error on our part.”

Several community meetings were held before the University implemented CTA routes around campus in 2000, said Sherry Gutman, the deputy dean of students for housing and dining services.

“I think the alderman’s concerns are legitimate,” Gutman said. “Though from our perspective it’s fine, there are non-University people in the neighborhood who have needs and I think it’s a legitimate concern on her part to make sure all the voices are heard.”

In addition to four University administrators, about 20 students attended the Kent Hall meeting to discuss the bus stop issue. Some, including first-year Steve SanPietro, expressed concern about whether gaining four parking spaces merited the stop’s removal.

“I’m from New York, and there’s a definite parking deficit in New York, but here it’s luxurious,” SanPietro said. “In my letter [to the alderman] I said, ‘not only are you not getting any benefit from it because it’s only four parking spaces, but you’re also inconveniencing hundreds of kids a day.’”

Some students asked whether the removal of the #171 stop signals the beginning of a campaign to eliminate additional bus stops. Gutman responded, saying students should not be concerned that the removal of one stop will lead to similar eliminations.

“In my experience, having worked with the CTA and the transportation program for many years, problems are not unusual—this one’s a little more dramatic,” she said. “But somehow we always manage to work through them. And the system has improved every year.”

Many students also questioned the alderman’s motivation for removing the stop.

“As far as I can tell, she hasn’t presented a clear argument for why the bus stop should be moved,” said third-year Laurel Mylonas-Orwig, who created a Facebook group last week in favor of saving the stop.

“If it’s the case that there’s not enough parking, then that’s not a good place because it’s not central to any residential area,” Mylonas-Orwig said. “And if it’s the case that she just wasn’t asked before they moved the stop, then that’s a personal vendetta against the bus stop, which is a really silly thing to do to students at large.”

Some students were also concerned about the alderman’s procedure for eliminating the stop.

“It seems to me that that she’s mad that we didn’t go through the proper channels the first time, so now that she’s demanded us to stop using the stop, she’s abandoned the process herself,” said second-year Dan Whitman.