October 5, 2012

SafeRide gone, night shuttles run longer and farther

University transportation officials have begun testing a new evening shuttle program that will replace SafeRide for this academic year in response to student complaints that the door-to-door service was unreliable.

Students can no longer call a central dispatcher to have a SafeRide shuttle pick them up. Instead, the new program, NightRide, repurposes the five former SafeRide buses as normal evening shuttles that run more frequently over longer hours and service a larger portion of Hyde Park along four routes (see graphic at right). The evening shuttles begin running at 5 p.m. each day—one hour earlier than last year—and run until 4 a.m. each day, except for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when they run until 6 a.m.

Shuttles also now directly service every residence hall and can be accessed within one to two blocks of every building on campus. They will momentarily stop at campus landmarks indicated on route maps, even if no one is waiting outside, in order to pick up students who may be leaving those locations.

As administrators planned the pilot program last spring, SG and Eckhart Consulting collaborated on a student survey assessing the program. The Transportation and Safety Advisory Board (TSAB) offered input on service improvements as well. According to Director of Transportation and Parking Theresa Brown, the most common complaints were related to high demand for shuttles and long wait times, which could be around 50 minutes.

“To address these concerns, the SafeRide program was redesigned to deliver shuttle service in a faster and more dependable way to the greatest number of users,” Brown wrote in an e-mail. She added that there have been “no reductions in the resources and personnel allocated to providing evening transit on campus” in the consolidation of the evening shuttle and SafeRide programs.

At a transportation forum last spring, some students defended SafeRide and said that they did not feel included in the changes to the program. Brown wrote that her department would continue to work with SG, Eckhart Consulting, and TSAB, and that students can offer feedback throughout the year by completing surveys, attending open forums, and e-mailing suggestions.

Fourth-year Kow Akepanidtaworn only recently learned that evening shuttle service had changed when he realized the evening shuttle started coming earlier than usual, but was unaware that door-to-door SafeRide service had been eliminated entirely. Even with the increase in shuttle service, Akepanidtaworn still believes that there should be door-to-door service at night.

“It’s not going to be convenient if there’s no SafeRide and you have to wait for the bus,” he said.