May 9, 2008

Greasing the wheels

Getting out of Hyde Park can be a bit of a chore for students. Most buses connecting the University with the rest of the city are inconvenient for a majority of the campus and oftentimes prove unreliable; those that bring riders directly from the heart of campus to the Loop and the North Side are primarily intended for faculty and staff and, accordingly, only run during rush hours. The Metra is rarely utilized for similar reasons—with the exception of rush hour, service is excruciatingly intermittent. The recent proposal by the Transportation Office to reroute the #173 bus wouldn’t alleviate all of these problems, but funding from the Provost would be an important advance toward improving the ability of students to easily explore downtown Chicago.

As it stands, the #173 route includes two-dozen stops and takes more than an hour to make its way from the Lab School to Belmont. If, for example, a student wanted to go from the Reynolds Club to the Gleacher Center, he or she would have to sit through seven stops over a period of about 45 minutes. On the new route, the bus would make only a few stops: the Reynolds Club, the Roosevelt and State/Lake Red Line stations, and the Gleacher Center (as well as possibly the new dorm, once it is constructed). This would slash travel times, while providing riders easy access to downtown El stops and popular destinations such as the Roosevelt Road Target and AMC River East.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the current #173 is its infrequency. Those seeking to head north on a weekday afternoon probably find the bus satisfactory. Those looking to return to campus from downtown or to travel anywhere outside of 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays must look elsewhere. The rerouting proposal includes extended late-night hours, weekend service, and a southbound version, addressing all of these problems.

An additional benefit of the proposed rerouting is safety: Instead of having to wait for the #55 late at night at the exposed Garfield stops, students could simply ride the new #173 all the way back to campus.

One potential concern about a new #173 route is its price tag, but this can be offset, in part, by scrapping the University-subsidized #174 bus. The bus, which currently runs from the Reynolds Clubs to the Garfield El stations, might be marginally more convenient for some students but has proven little more than a redundant version of the #55 bus.

Leaving Hyde Park can often be a journey in itself. Any improvement to the current weak transportation options can only help the student body. Overhauling the #173 may provide a much-needed jolt of energy for a system that often seems as if it’s running on empty.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.