February 9, 2010

Late-night shuttle may change hours after IHC vote, but will ignore safety concerns, SG says

After the CTA reduced service for the #55 and the #6 bus routes Sunday, the University’s late-night South Loop Shuttle has become the only scheduled mode of transportation directly into Hyde Park after 12:30 a.m. However, Houses are requesting by a margin of two-to-one that the shuttle’s hours of operation be moved two hours earlier, with 60 percent of Houses responding in an Inter-House Council (IHC) vote.

But some Student Government (SG) representatives believe the shift will detract from the shuttle’s intended use—a safe after-hours route to Hyde Park from downtown—while some students argue the change will make travel downtown more convenient.

The shuttle leaves the Reynolds Club for the South Loop hourly between 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. and again between 1:30 and 3:30 a.m. The last bus leaves the Red Line’s Roosevelt station at 4 a.m.

“Some people thought that having the shuttle end at four was a little too late, that it was unrealistic, and that most people didn’t come home too late,” third-year and IHC’s Residential Life Chair Patricia Padurean said. “And since we don’t have money to extend the hours, [shifting the hours backwards] would be the response to that.”

Between 100 and 150 people ride the shuttle on Friday and Saturday nights, University spokesman Jeremy Manier said in an e-mail.

An IHC recommendation to begin shuttle service at 7 p.m. would not guarantee that the University would implement the change. IHC and SG representatives form the Transportation Student Advisory Board (TSAB), which passes recommendations to the administration.

Manier said TSAB will discuss the shuttle at an upcoming meeting in February. “The University will continue to monitor bus usage and demand, and will make transportation decisions based on need and available funding,” Manier said.

SG members said TSAB’s decision could be influential, especially if it involves a shift in hours rather than adding hours.

But those interviewed were not willing to overlook the program’s intended use. SG President and fourth-year Jarrod Wolf said the shuttle was created to ensure the safety of students returning to campus late. Convenience and ease of traveling downtown are important but secondary, he said. “I want to see it accommodate CTA’s recent cuts and the safety of our students,” he said.

First-year and College Council representative Frank Alarcón agreed. “The Transportation Department has made it clear that the main purpose of the shuttle is student safety.”

Some students, however, found flaws in the current system unattractive. “I haven’t gone downtown that much this year because it’s been such a pain. I’ve never used the downtown shuttle. I actually don’t know when it leaves, and it doesn’t seem very well publicized,” second-year Elaine Singerman said.

Wolf said a compromise might involve expanding the budget to start the bus earlier on Saturdays, to make students more familiar with the service.

“When administrators evaluate the success of the service, I would urge them to consider how ridership would increase if the shuttle started running earlier on one day, say 5 p.m. on Saturdays,” Wolf said.

Efforts to link campus with the city have failed in the past, mostly due to expense constraints.

“Ultimately, if students want this service, they need to use it and talk about it,” Wolf said.