It is imperative for students to have an affordable and dependable route both to and from campus. In many cases, the current obstacles that impede the return leg of the trip discourage many students from exiting campus at all. Many issues lead to the difficulties involved in traveling away from campus, including and most importantly the unreliability of existing routes.
The #6 bus, though a good option for Shoreland residents, is not a feasible option for late-night transportation for the vast majority of students who live in the center of campus. These students have to hike at least a mile to and from the bust stop.
The #173 bus offers a direct route to the heart of downtown, but two issues plague the bus route: its infrequent once-per-hour pick-up schedule, and its unreliability in keeping that schedule.
The #55 bus tends to become less consistent the later it gets. After 9 or 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, students are accustomed to waiting for the #55 for as long as 70 minutes, and often a solid 45 minutes (a great difference from the advertised waiting times of 15 to 20 minutes).
The current proposal at hand to institute a Red Line shuttle bus would solve these various problems. The shuttle would operate on Friday and Saturday evenings from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. The proposed route would run non-stop between the Reynolds Club and the 55th Street Red Line stop. The shuttle would be able to make a two-mile one-way trip in less than 10 minutes, with an average pick-up rate at 15-minute intervals.
Including fuel, insurance, and a generous wage to the driver to drive an already U of C-owned van, the annual cost of the shuttle would be $8,243. For comparison purposes, the current total budget allotted to University transportation is in the upwards of $1.2 million. No funds would be sacrificed from current transportation services for the new shuttle: the University is under contract with CTA and Laidlaw bus services, and the late-night van service is funded under the University Police Department. If the University is to establish this shuttle, it would be in addition to any current budget, rather than a trade-off with any service currently provided.
The shuttle's primary purpose would be to serve as an alternate route back to campus. Our students are not reluctant to experience the rest of the city, they just wish to have a safe, reliable, and efficient route back to campus when it is a late weekend night, and the #55 and #173 cannot be relied upon. The proposed Red Line shuttle is a relatively cheap, accessible, and functional project that would eliminate the frustrations that currently afflict students that regularly use public transportation.
The proposed shuttle has raised awareness about the deficiencies of the late-night #55 and the #173 service. It would be a success for the student body whether the shuttle reaches fruition, the #55 becomes more dependable, or the #173 is expanded to better serve our needs. It is clear, from what has been considered (including a random poll of students) and from the costs of these various options, that the Red Line shuttle would be most practical and most cost-effective. It is currently the student body's best choice.