UCPD will hand over keys to “drunk van”

By Sarah Hetherington

The U of C Department of Transportation and Parking will take over from the U of C Police Department (UCPD) in managing the late-night van service, starting during winter quarter.

Transportation and Parking will exchange the current service vehicles for new vans with expanded passenger capacity, as well as access for disabled students.

“The service itself won’t change, only the drivers and vehicles will change,” said Brian Shaw, director of Transportation and Parking, in an e-mail interview. “The new, larger shuttle buses will be used for the service. These have 20 seats and allow for the disabled community to use the service for the first time as all the shuttles will be ADA compliant.”

Rumors have swirled about changes to the van service, nicknamed the “drunk van.” A Facebook group, “The Late Night Van Service Has Been Discontinued,” has attracted 244 members. The group’s description also mistakenly states that the van service will stop after winter quarter 2007.

Second-year Lauren Dueck heard the rumors through her roommate, who saw the Facebook group, and spoke to one of the drivers of the late-night van service about the changes.

“The driver told me that the van service was being transferred to another division and then being discontinued,” Dueck said.

Dueck was upset about the rumored changes to the van service and the confusion surrounding the issue. “The late-night van service is an integral part of how people get around and socialize,” she said.

She said the University made a “huge public relations faux pas” in not clarifying the situation.

Transportation officials say they hope the changes to the van service will respond to student complaints and University concerns.

“The University has known for a long time that the service hasn’t worked perfectly, and they want to improve the service, so they’re transferring it to Transportation and Parking,” said fourth-year Donny Copeland, Student Government vice president for Administration.

Last year, Copeland was a member of a committee formed within Student Government to address problems with the van.

The committee came to a few conclusions, the first of which was that late-night bus hours should be extended in order to supplement the role of the late-night van service, a change that was implemented this year with Sunday–Wednesday hours that last until 2 a.m. and Thursday-Saturday hours until 6 a.m.

Other common complaints included the vans’ limited capacity, state of disrepair, and lack of accessibility for disabled students.

“If anything, the service will be extended—hopefully with more vans that are better administered,” Copeland said.