April 9, 2013

How to launch a shuttle

SG and student enthusiasm regarding Roosevelt shuttle revamp crucial to improving this valuable service.

A Student Government (SG) initiative to reform the Roosevelt shuttle service, which is currently the only free student transportation service that runs to downtown Chicago, recently obtained its most pressing and vital component: student input. On April 6, the SG blog published the results of a questionnaire that requested feedback on time of operation and drop-off location of the shuttle service. The success of the survey, both as a SG initiative and as an example of student engagement, represents significant progress toward more efficient and relevant transportation services, which could be implemented as early as this fall. The service provided by the Roosevelt shuttle is a unique and indispensable one, and its improvement merits both time and attention. While this process is far from complete, current efforts on the part of both SG and the student body are promising and ought to continue with the same, if not greater, level of participation.

According to a January 24 SG blog post, the Roosevelt shuttle service suffers from low student ridership, even though it offers a free, nonstop service to a common destination for University students. In response, SG announced the new survey, which was put online February 23 and further advertised to students in a later e-mail. Participation, as reported in the April 6 post, was impressively high: The survey was completed by over 900 students, a third of whom were graduate students.

The shuttle was a long-awaited and highly anticipated initiative, but its features have failed to match up with student preferences. According to the November 17, 2009 Maroon article reporting on its launch, the shuttle, which currently runs from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., was originally intended to “provide a safe way [for students] to get home after a night out on the town.” It appears that students are not spending many nights on the town: The results of the survey indicate that the most popular timeframe for a new downtown shuttle is the much more conservative 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. “Behind the Art Institute” was identified as a desired drop-off location in addition to “the South Loop,” which encompasses the shuttle’s current stop.

The intent of the shuttle service is a highly commendable one. The fact that the University provides its students with a free and safe way to explore the city of Chicago is admirable, and students should not take the existence of this service for granted. The city is, after all, our namesake, and the shuttle program is in line with the administration’s stated aim of facilitating student engagement with Chicago. It is also laudable that Student Government, recognizing the value of the shuttle, is committed to making it a more relevant and accessible resource for students. However, in order for these efforts to bear fruit, the onus falls on students—whether or not they currently make use of the shuttle—to continue to give feedback wherever possible. The Roosevelt shuttle’s past flaws are no justification for students to ignore the current campaign for improvement. In fact, they provide a prime opportunity for students to contribute to optimizing this crucial service.

A second student transportation survey, which is set to begin circulating this week, provides just such an opportunity. Students should continue their engagement with this issue at the level they have so far demonstrated in order to ensure that changes made are most in line with their preferences. The administration cannot be receptive to student needs unless students take it upon themselves to make those needs known. The Roosevelt shuttle survey exemplifies the possibilities created when students and administrators work together to eliminate inefficiencies and strengthen existing services. But such possibilities cannot be realized unless students remain communicative and attentive to instances when their opinion is solicited.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief, Editors-in-Chief Elect, and the Viewpoints Editors.