SG closer to making Red Line van service a reality

By Tara Kadioglu

The Student Government Transportation Committee (SGTC) presented its proposal for a shuttle service traveling from campus to the Red Line to the Transportation Advisory Workgroup last Friday, drawing constructive criticism and bolstering hopes that the shuttle service might materialize.

SGTC chair Joe Anzalone presented the proposal to the committee. Cheryl Gutman, the deputy dean of the Housing, Dining, and Transportation Services Office, said she was generally impressed with this year’s proposal, even though it was not perfect.

Gutman said the proposal was one of the most professional and complete proposals she has seen come from a student group.

“The financials especially were extremely thoughtful, although some of the assumptions on cost were incorrect,” she said.

“But that is the beauty of having the Transportation Advisory Workgroup, because we have several transportation experts sitting at the table, who can be helpful.”

In addition to Gutman, the workgroup includes representatives from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the provost’s office, the alderman’s office, Student Government, Inter-House Council, and Laidlaw, a bus provider.

The workgroup discussed several suggestions in order to resolve specific criticisms of the proposal.

Committee members called for more concrete data to reinforce the argument that the #55 is unreliable on late-night weekend hours. One suggestion was to press the CTA to submit a report.

The workgroup also asked about the shuttle service’s accountability. The University does not handle its own transportation service, as it delegates command to CTA and Laidlaw providers.

The only exception is the late-night van service, which the University of Chicago Police Department funds.

One option would be to place the Red Line shuttle under the same control ast the van service, but Gutman said this may or may not be a good idea.

“The vans that are being recommended are being scrutinized on a national level for safety—currently the U of C has stringent requirements for anyone who may drive one,” she said. “So it may be that they could not be used for this purpose.”

Gutman said if the shuttle is owned and managed by the University—exclusively for University students—it would alienate students from the community.

“One of the great things about the CTA contract is that anyone [who has] a ticket can use the system,” she said.

The proposal also called for changes in the #173 bus route. According to the proposal, if funding were sufficient, the “best change in the current transportation system would be to increase the number of buses on the #173 in order to make it more reliable to take back to campus and to make it stop more than once an hour to pick up passengers.”

Anzalone suggested that the southbound route of the #173 bus needed to be “more reliable” and that the best option might be to have it run more often within a given time slot.

All agreed that this would significantly increase costs.

The workgroup will meet again early in winter quarter to further analyze the proposal.

But Anzalone is optimistic. “I’m glad that from now on we can gain advice and have questions answered by University administrators,” he said. “The bigger the pool of experienced personnel that are working on this, the better and more efficient this shuttle will operate.”

It was also noted at the meeting that more people have been using the bus system.

The budget totals about $1.1 million, with about $800,000 dedicated to white-bus services.

The transportation budget is primarily funded by tuition and endowments, which 25 to 30 percent of the budget dedicated to services for the Shoreland and Broadview residents.