When Student Government (SG) reconvenes later this quarter, one of the most pressing issues it will inherit from last year's SG will be the status of the Red Line Shuttle, the pilot project intended to provide safer transportation for students to downtown Chicago. The shuttle, which had an experimental run during the last half of spring quarter 2004 from the Reynolds Club to the Garfield Red Line station, was a point of contention for many University and Hyde Park residents, who complained of University bias.
According to Sharlene Holly, director of the office of the Reynolds Club and student activities (ORCSA), even though ridership was good during the trial period, a decision has not yet been made on its status.
"The shuttle did not run over the summer," Holly said on the status of the project. "A decision has not been made if the shuttle will exist for the 2004-2005 academic year."
Holly said that the decision to take up the issue rests in the current SG board's hands this year. Whether or not SG takes up the issue immediately, Holly said, was uncertain.
Ananya Das, SG Vice President, has stated that the current Executive Slate has not received any information or analysis regarding the Red Line Shuttle from any of the previous SG leaders. Joe Anzalone, a 2004 graduate, and Bo Shan, a fourth-year in the College, spearheaded the original proposal for the Red Line Shuttle and were the ones to gather research during the trial project. Shan, the former SG president, declined to comment.
Das did specify that SG will consider the shuttle after SG elections and when committees reconvene later this fall.
"Since it was strictly a student initiative, after the assembly is formed along with the SG transportation committee, it is up to them to determine whether there is sufficient demand from the student body for this shuttle to be reinstated," Das said. "If they decide to do so, it will be seen on campus in winter quarter, at the earliest."
The decision whether or not to install an actual Red Line Shuttle during the school year ultimately rests on Cheryl Gutman, dean of housing, dining, and transportation services in the College, and on the advice the Transportation Advisory Work Group. The group, composed of representatives from SG, the Inter-House Council, and different liaisons from the CTA, the U of C Office of government and community affairs, and Laidlaw Transportations, considers any changes to improve services and advices Gutman on her final decision.
"The Transportation Advisory Work Group (TAWG) will take up the issue again when the group is reconstituted again late this fall," Gutman said, "We have understood the need for students to connect with the rest of the city, but the issue of how to get students in a safe manner to the north side has yet to be fully considered and analyzed by TAWG. We are looking at all options under the consideration that we constrained by a budget and other logistical limitations."
Gutman said that the TAWG is considering many options to the problem of safely transporting students to the downtown area. One of the reasons that they allowed the Red Line shuttle pilot program was the desire to have better connections with the Red Line, even though the TAWG did not have a strong consensus on the issue, according to Gutman, and the group had reservations on the assumptions of the Red Line proposal.
"The attendant values issuessuch as the degree to which a U of C-centric service extending to the Red Line might have a negative effect on our relationship with our friends in the surrounding neighborhoodwere much more difficult to tease out and address," Gutman said. "The issue of connections to the north side and more to the point, returning from the north side later at night will be taken up by the TAWG this fall."
Gutman said that when the TAWG reconvenes next November, the group will consider many options, including analyzing the problems with the 173 CTA bus to Belmont and reassessing its route and time schedule. She said she would be receptive to student opinion and any forum that SG or IHC may set up to listen to students' ideas on the issue.