May 13, 2011

Low-speed rail

The University should start addressing the lack of an effective downtown travel option

Many students come to the University of Chicago in search of a fast-paced life in a world-class city. Expertly-framed photographs gracing the front University brochures give the impression that downtown Chicago is right in the University’s backyard, merely walking distance away. Seductive sells like these give many incoming students the impression that they can easily immerse themselves in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods—until they actually get here.

There are many ways out of Hyde Park: The CTA 6, 2, and X28 buses, the Metra, and the Red and Green lines—to name a few. Yet despite the myriad set of options students have when deciding how to get to River North for a Saturday night dinner, it always feels like one is choosing between a rock and a hard place. The inconvenience of transportation out of Hyde Park has long been an issue for U of C students and has played a prominent part in last month’s Student Government (SG) elections. Here are a few suggestions, some taken from this year’s candidates for executive slate, for improving transportation options to and from Hyde Park.

First, the University should consider providing a shuttle to and from the Garfield Red and Green Line Stations. The current Roosevelt shuttle is certainly a positive step, but its use is limited by a near-total lack of publicity and the fact that it runs only once every 30 minutes. Buses intended solely for the Garfield stations could run much more frequently than does the Roosevelt shuttle, and would allow students more flexibility in their travel plans. They would also keep students from having to stand over the Dan Ryan for up to 30 minutes while waiting to catch the 55 bus back to campus.

The University should also consider installing CTA Card vending machines on campus. As it stands, the closest machines are located in the basement of the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). A student wishing to take a bus who has no money on his or her card must either make the trek to the MSI or awkwardly search for $2.25 at the front of the bus. A CTA Card machine in the Reynolds Club, for example, would save many students from unnecessary hassle.

It is also time to reconsider the U-Pass. Administration explored the question in 2007 after a Student Government referendum endorsed the initiative, but ultimately concluded the costs would be too high and that the average student does not travel enough to justify the price-tag. This decision is questionable, however, given that approximately 40 other Chicago area schools have chosen to adopt the U-Pass. Administration should not only re-calculate the costs of having the U-Pass but also ask the student body, once again, whether or not it is willing to accept them. This is an issue that must be examined comprehensively and settled definitively in one way or the other.

One of the U of C’s most appealing qualities is its setting: An ideal blend of urban and suburban in the nation’s third largest city. Yet ,ineffective travel options often impede the transition between the two poles of campus and city life. In resolving this issue, the U of C would not only improve the experience of current students, but would also attract a larger number of future applicants and deliver on its promises of immersion in Chicago life.

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