The University’s NightRide Pilot Program, which replaced the SafeRide and Evening Shuttle programs, has now been in effect for seven weeks. As the temperatures dip and a new quarter approaches, it’s time to assess whether or not NightRide has been an improvement over the former system, and to address what still must be done in order to provide safe, efficient travel for all students. Though NightRide has resolved many of the problems that plagued the old shuttle system and SafeRide, it still fails to address a few problematic aspects of those services that led to their replacement.
Last year’s Evening Shuttles ran on a dependable schedule, leaving from points on 57th Street at set intervals, which made it possible to guess when a shuttle would pass by a given location. This year, according to Director of Transportation and Parking Theresa Fletcher-Brown, shuttles leave on approximate intervals because they can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to complete their routes. Such variability is reasonable given the greater area covered by routes and fluctuations in ridership throughout the night.
However, this variability renders catching the shuttles along their routes a more difficult task. Uncertainty about arrival times has made the University’s TransLoc Web site and mobile application indispensable; this dependence is problematic given that not every student will have access to a smartphone while outside searching for a shuttle. Even with comfortable knowledge of the route, it is entirely possible that students may have to wait up to thirty minutes to catch the shuttle, an inappropriately lengthy amount of time given potentially dangerous circumstances relating to time of night and weather. Furthermore, the TransLoc site and app themselves are frequently unreliable, with instances of shuttles not moving to accurately reflect their progress or displayed at incorrect locations. Updating TransLoc should be one of the University’s top priorities as they consider changes for next quarter’s shuttle system.
Though real-time arrival times can, in fact, also be received via text messaging, this method requires knowing the “stop code” of your location, knowledge students are unlikely to have on hand. Once the routes have been finalized, the University could address this shortcoming by designating stops with signs at each which contain the corresponding stop code. This would not only help mitigate problems with TransLoc’s consistency and accessibility, but also provide clear locations for students and shuttle drivers to expect to find one another.
Other points of necessary reform include removal of the confusing color-coding of routes and introducing reverse routes. Both color-specified and non-color-specified shuttles actually service the same routes. Though exact reverse route shuttles are implausible given Hyde Park’s one-way streets, new routes running modified reverse routes would deal with the issue of disproportionately long waits for passengers living by stops near the end of routes. The North, for example, loops all the way up to 47th Street before coming back down to more heavily student-populated areas along Hyde Park Boulevard and Greenwood Avenue.
A new survey regarding the current system has just been released to students, and they should do their part to actively contribute reform ideas. However, the promise of and subsequent denial of reverse routes is troubling, and brings into question the extent to which student input will actually be considered for future iterations of NightRide. The University’s attempts at reform, though admirable, are still short of fulfilling the needs of students. It is imperative that the University listens to student input aimed at resolving the basic issues—such as timing and efficiency—that still prevent the shuttle system from being the reliable transportation option students need.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.