Proposal for airport bus service stalled

By Sara Jerome

The University recently rejected a student proposal for shuttle service from campus to Chicago airports. Revising the plan will be an Inter-House Council (IHC) priority this quarter, according to Transportation Student Advisory Board (TSAB) co-chairman Charles Thompson.

Thompson proposed a shuttle system in November that would bring students to the airport for a fee of 5 to 10 dollars. In an e-mail to Brian Shaw, director of campus transportation and parking, Thompson said that even with this fee, the service could still cost “significantly less than a taxi” and may be “faster than the CTA.”

“Walking from B-J, Breck, Blackstone, or Max P…with a suitcase, laptop, carry-on, and other travel accoutrements in the snow would not be a good idea,” said Thompson. “[This] is why I thought a sensible system in which a bus stops in front of each of the several dorms to pick up students would be better. Going further, perhaps a bus could stop in front of the major apartment complexes as well.”

The plan was rejected in early December. In an e-mail to the Inter-House Council (IHC), Thompson said that he, Student Government (SG), and the transportation office determined that such a service was impractical due to a special permit required for buses driving to airports and because the busses cost $60 per hour.

Shaw said that his department “is not set up to sell individual subscriptions to charter bus services such as this.” According to Shaw, it would be necessary for a student group, rather than the transportation office, to sell the tickets.

“As the quarter progresses, we will be holding meetings within IHC to discuss possible solutions to funding this venture,” Thompson said.

Shaw said TSAB should instead consider the possibility of a shuttle service from campus to the Blue Line and Union Station to “facilitate transportation to O’Hare and Amtrak.”

According to Shaw, supplementing the CTA’s existing services to Midway, the #55 and the #55 Express busses, is unnecessary. He said these busses are “very cost effective, direct and flexible” and that he has “taken the 55 and the 55 Express to Midway on multiple occasions without incident, in a timely manner.”

Although students do use the #55 and the #55 Express busses to travel to Midway, many disagree with Shaw’s assessment.

Second-year Neil Raman said that although he would rather take the #55 than a taxi, he often has to wait a long time for the bus. “And, when it comes, three or four usually come.”

In particular, many students, especially women, said that the difficulty of lifting bags onto the bus often deters them from taking the #55 bus to Midway.

“When I have my huge suitcases, I tend to take a taxi,” said Margot Spellman, a third-year who regularly flies out of Midway. Spellman suggested that the University send someone to the #55 bus stop to help students lift their bags. “People [on the bus] usually help, but I feel bad asking.”

First-year Emma Marquez said that she usually opts to take a taxi to Midway as well. She said she usually travels with her laptop and two large bags, and said she feels unsafe travelling back to her dorm from the CTA bus stop. “As a woman, you’re by yourself and you’re more vulnerable,” she said. “If something happens to you, you can’t really do anything.”