October 23, 2009

More changes in store for UchicaGO

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A pilot shuttle program will run from downtown to campus on weekend nights, and weeknight campus shuttles will extend service from 1 to 2 a.m., interim Director of Transportation Rodney Morris announced at a student forum in the Tribune Lounge Thursday.

The forum was held to address concerns about recent changes in transportation and safety, and included an ad-hoc address by Kim Goff-Crews to discuss free speech issues on campus in response to Ehud Olmert’s visit last Thursday.

Morris, who replaced former director Brian Shaw after he left the University last week, said the buses downtown will likely start running in November, pending a Student Government (SG) review. The shuttle will start at the South Loop Roosevelt CTA station and drop students off at the Reynolds Club, running every half hour either from midnight to 4 a.m. or from 11:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.

SG President and fourth-year Jarrod Wolf supported the downtown shuttle, but questioned its effectiveness. The University should provide better transportation options for students getting downtown before they run shuttles to get them home, he said.

“If we can’t get out of Hyde Park, how can we take the bus back?” he asked. “I can predict the bus will fail because there aren’t enough people coming back to make it worth it.”

Marlon Lynch, associate vice president of safety and security, countered that his department’s budget prevented such a sweeping plan. “We can’t start out with a full-blown system,” he said, adding that if the program is successful, more service could be added.

Morris also described ongoing SafeRide restructuring, whose long wait times led to student complaints in recent weeks.

“There are times during the day when we have little to no ridership. We can cut back on that and pass the savings along to peak hours,” Morris said.

Unexpectedly long SafeRide wait times were caused by Medical Center staff calling the service for rides from the hospital to its parking garage in the evening, after the Medical Center’s shuttles stopped service. Demand has decreased, however, since the operating hours for the shuttle were extended.

The University will also replace current 171 and 172 buses with larger models to reduce crowding and improve wait times. The process began on Monday, when the University replaced three buses.

Morris stressed the challenge of transportation and why no solution will please everyone. “We have limited resources. We have to meet the demand and needs of the greatest portion of the student population,” he said.

The University will be evaluating the performance of the transportation system monthly.

Lynch discussed general safety issues on campus and in Hyde Park. He focused on UCPD’s pairing of new technology with traditional police work.

Statistical analysis revealed that crime peaks in October, as well as which days are more crime-prone. The University then tailored a response to the information.

Lynch said UCPD is also stationed within the South Campus Resident Hall and Max Palevsky to focus on teaching crime prevention.

After Morris and Lynch spoke, Goff-Crews fielded questions from students reacting to the invitation of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by the Harris School.