October 24, 2011

Shuttle shakeup

Changes to transportation policy should reflect student input and demand.

Recent reports indicate that the South Loop shuttle service is in danger of being discontinued due to low student use. Although the service is quite useful—providing all of us who go downtown on the weekends a free form of transit—the shuttle inexplicably receives zero advertising from the University. Simply doing a better job marketing the South Loop shuttle would ensure that more people use it.

However, it is possible that changing the way the service currently runs would better suit student need. Currently, the shuttle runs once an hour and takes students to the Red, Green, and Orange Line stop at Roosevelt and State in the South Loop. Perhaps a route that runs more frequently and takes students from campus to the Garfield Red Line stop and back would be a good idea since, especially late at night, it could keep students from waiting 40 minutes for a #55 bus. Or, the Office of Transportation could decide that the shuttle should simply take students to the heart of downtown, as opposed to its current stop in the South Loop. Either way, the University shouldn’t abandon the laudable goal of facilitating travel outside of Hyde Park.

Although the problem facing the South Loop shuttle is obviously the most pressing, there are also some basic issues with transportation within Hyde Park. Anecdotal evidence suggests that shuttle lateness is a chronic issue with certain routes, not to mention the unreliable SafeRide wait-time estimates. It goes without saying that the success of the shuttle system relies on promptness, and if a route is consistently running five minutes late, it ruins transferring from one route to another. Not only does this discourage people from riding the shuttles, but it incentivizes calling SafeRide and delays that service.

Then there are other issues, such as the lack of transportation options on weekends. The #171 and #172 busses only stop once every 30 minutes and are the safest and easiest ways for students living outside University housing to get to campus before 6 p.m. Consequently, Transportation should at least consider starting weekend shuttle routes earlier in order to make getting to campus during the weekend easier; of course, we realize that this would cost money, and might not pass a strict cost/benefit test, but it is at the very least an idea that merits discussion.

As far as shuttle lateness and similar issues go, one of the ideas floating around Student Government (SG) recently would go a long way toward addressing such problems. SG has talked about the creation of a website that students can use to evaluate various University-provided services, much like what currently exists for classes. Transportation is a perfect example of a University service that practically demands student input and criticism, and so a website where students list their grievances, or simply commend the Office of Transportation on a job well done, would help identify which areas need improvement.

None of this is to say that the University and SG have done a poor job when it comes to addressing student concerns about transportation. Whether it’s the very existence of the South Loop shuttle service or the monitors showing shuttle locations in several campus buildings, it’s clear that both Administration and SG are interested in thinking of new solutions to existing transportation problems. Let’s hope that this drive continues.

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