April 22, 2003

Riding the Shoreland

In the fall, a few students in Broadview complained that the Shoreland Express Shuttle Bus was sometimes filling up in the morning and passing them by. The housing office, without taking ridership statistics or altering the bus schedule, decided to start unconditionally checking for Shoreland/Broadview IDs, even though the bus was filling up in maybe three or four out of the 49 runs a day. Now that the new ID policy is being implemented again, it has created many more problems, and it has not even solved the original problem of overcrowding in the morning. This policy should be changed to at least stop checking for IDs in the afternoon.

The recent enforcement of the ID policy has contributed to making student life more difficult for many people and for many reasons. The policy discourages Shoreland and Broadview residents from bringing non-Shoreland and Broadview friends back to their dorms because they must wait for another bus, often watching a Shoreland Express pass by. This effectively inhibits social life at the University (and we need all we can get), and it does so in an inefficient manner because the bus that passes by will often have very few people on it. The policy also reinforces the negative stigma of Shoreland and Broadview being too far away from campus, already a barrier to visiting these wonderful residence halls. The funds for the Shoreland Express come out of the housing office budget, not directly from Shoreland or Broadview room fees. So anyone living in the housing system should indeed have a right to ride the express bus.

Some may argue that enforcement of the policy is the only way to ensure that Shoreland and Broadview students have seats on the express bus. Yet the policy is guaranteed to upset scores of Shoreland and Broadview students who forget or lose their IDs from time to time (or rent out a shopping cart or vacuum cleaner). The funny thing is that this horrible policy has not even completely fixed the situation it was set up to fix! The express bus still fills up in the morning because there are just too many Shoreland and Broadview students trying to get to their morning classes. The policy has also created a new problem because now the CTA #171 fills up, which did not happen before the new policy was implemented.

The policy has also created a new problem for visitors. If a prospective student forgets her bus pass or does not have one to begin with, she will likely be denied a ride on the Shoreland Express. Also, family and out-of-town friends cannot take the Shoreland Express anymore, and they cannot take the CTA #171 without paying.

The ID policy verges on inhumanity when it forces the bus drivers to deny rides to graduate and undergraduate students who live in apartments close to the route, even if it is 10 degrees outside and the bus has extra room. Letting all members of the community onto the express bus in the afternoon would hurt virtually no one. Economically, the ID policy is not Pareto-Optimal.

The housing office has given a good number of varying reasons for the new enforcement of the policy, and nearly all of them do not hold up to scrutiny. They argue that there needs to be a "strict demarcation" between the Shoreland Express and all of the other buses open to the university community, or else "expectations will rise" and people will complain more often in the morning. However, the truth of the matter is that people are complaining because the present policy makes our lives more difficult, and because these detriments to University life outweigh any argument for demarcation that supports near-empty buses checking for IDs from 2:20pm-7:00pm.

I'm currently soliciting concerns about the flaws of the new ID policy. These arguments and stories will be presented to the University Transportation Workgroup this Friday.