April 30, 2004

Red Line pilot gets green light

The Student Government General Assembly (SGGA) voted 14-1 to support the Red Line Shuttle pilot program Monday night, following the completion of a survey that demonstrated overwhelming student support for the late-night service.

"The assembly felt that there was a need for the student body to have a more efficient method of going to and from the Red Line in the late evening and early morning hours," Joe Anzalone, Student Government Transportation Committee (SGTC) chair, said following the decision. "The pilot will allow us to figure out which hours are the busiest and whether we should extend the service or keep the service at all."

The resolution draws on a survey conducted by the SGTC last week that asked students about traveling downtown. Of the 571 who completed the online survey, 420 were in favor of adding the shuttle bus, most of them citing the lack of reliability of the 55 bus in the late evening, according to Anzalone.

"We decided to move on primarily because we became sure that students would use the service," Anzalone said. He added that staff members working late shifts on campus—mainly in the University Hospitals—would be able to use the shuttle as well.

The resolution included an endorsement from the Transportation Advisory Workgroup (TAW), chaired by Sherry Gutman, deputy dean of housing, dining and, transportation. The group includes three students from IHC, three students from SG, a person from each local alderman's office, a member of the community affairs office, a representative from student housing, and a representative from the provost's office.

"I think that the response [of the TAW] was mixed, but in the end as far as endorsing the pilot program, I think people felt like that was fine," Gutman said.

Gutman made it clear that the Red Line Shuttle is an initiative of the student government, and that it has been discussed since last year. Gutman emphasized that the transportation budget is fixed and that changing it would require rearranging the entire system.

TAW has started collecting budget data to see if any money can be spared for the Red Line proposal. "They've worked really, really hard on this. They've been really thoughtful, and it's a really reasonable set of questions to be asking," Gutman said.

The Red Line Shuttle was also implicitly implicitly by the Office of Community Affairs, which rejected a main criticism that the shuttle would isolate students from the community. According to Anzalone, when asked whether the Red Line Shuttle would have any affect on the community around the Red Line station, Director of Community Affairs Sonya Malunda said that the odd operating hours of the shuttle would minimize negative community impact.

"I think the whole process of looking at this has been very healthy for the transportation system," Gutman said, noting that she does not have a particular recommendation right now. "It's kind of too early in the process to make any kind of definitive statement."

For the entire five-week period, the shuttle will cost a little less than $2,100.

The shuttle will begin on May 7, Friday of 6th week, running from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.  The pilot program will then run every Friday and Saturday night through June 5, Saturday of 10th week.