Aug. 29-Sept. 12, 2003
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ACC looks beyond athletics with Traveling Scholars Program

‘A great ride’ comes to a smooth landing
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New orthopaedic surgery chair focuses on today’s broken bones, tomorrow’s new legs
Breast Care Center offers high-tech health, warm environment
Appalachian clinic draws record crowd
Positive spin keeps wheels turning at Parking & Transportation
Bus schedule, escort changes enhance safety
Visa problems take toll on international students
Summer session office losing longtime leader
From bugs to satellites: A symposium on the limits of landscape
McCormick Observatory offers ‘Mars Mania’
All moved in
Pluses and minuses fill balance sheet of Luckson Hove’s life
Transfer students get early start at building community
Bus schedule, escort changes enhance safety

bus picks up riders By Dan Heuchert

More frequent nighttime and weekend bus service and a more focused escort service, renamed “SafeRide,” are among the elements the University is introducing this month to address student security issues.

A committee of students, faculty and administrators recommended the changes after a two-year study of the University’s Escort Service. Heavy ridership in recent years had slowed response times, leading to many complaints from stranded students and staff.

The Escort Service was founded in the 1970s to provide a safe alternative to walking alone at night. The University Police Department joined in the management of the service in the late 1980s. In response to a 1997 attack on a student in the Venable neighborhood, the service’s hours and operating area were expanded.

The result was a huge increase in ridership, from approximately 6,600 riders in 1995 to approximately 52,600 in 2002. The boom led to staffing challenges, taxed the service’s vans and strained the Police Department’s budget. Waits for a ride climbed as high as 45 minutes at times, particularly on Thursday through Saturday nights.

For more information on the bus route changes, including schedules, see:

“For many students … the Escort Service has become one of several transportation alternatives they might consider for normal evening use rather than an occasional resource when there is no other safe alternative,” the committee’s report concluded. “As it currently operates, the Escort Service is serving transportation needs for many students and safety needs for considerably fewer.”

SafeRide debuts

SafeRide, which began operation Aug. 23 at midnight, is intended to focus more narrowly on the Escort Service’s original mission: providing a safe ride for individuals or small groups who would otherwise be forced to walk alone at night. An increase in after-dark bus service is intended to provide routine transportation and revised SafeRide procedures should improve the response time, so committee members foresee no drop-off in student safety.

“We don’t want to compromise student safety,” said V. Shamim Sisson, senior associate dean of students and chairwoman of the Escort Service Review Committee. “While at first blush it looks like cutting back, in several ways we are improving students’ ability to manage their own safety.”

Features of SafeRide:

Restricting the service hours to midnight through 6 a.m., when University Transit Service buses do not run.

Limiting service to groups of three or fewer. Rather than transporting a half-dozen students from dorms to the Corner, Sisson said, SafeRide is intended to serve the one student who decides she would rather return home than continue with a group to another location.

Limiting the service, whenever practical, to those who call for rides, rather than allowing students to hop on when they discover the van stopped nearby.

Enhanced bus service

Changes to the UTS schedule, which took effect Aug. 25, are the most extensive since the current routes were introduced in the fall of 1984, said Rebecca White, director of the Department of Parking and Transportation services.

The biggest change: buses on the workhorse Blue/Orange Route will come along much more frequently at night during “full service” (when classes are in session during the fall and spring semesters). Buses on the Blue/Orange Route will run every 12 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on weekdays and from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on weekends.

Previously, Blue/Orange Route buses ran every 10 minutes during the day, but only every 20 minutes after approximately 6 p.m. The hope is that students will now view UTS buses as a more attractive option for routine nighttime transportation, White said.

The Grounds Loop also will run more frequently, with buses coming every 15 minutes instead of every half-hour. The route will no longer link Scott Stadium with the hospital. Instead, it will turn down Fontaine Avenue, cut through the Piedmont faculty housing area, stop at Runk Hall and turn back toward Central Grounds. (There will be a special run from Piedmont and Runk to the hospital at 7:20 a.m. and 7:32 a.m., and Blue route buses running from the hospital to the stadium will now be routed through Piedmont and Runk, providing service every 12 minutes.)
The changes in the Grounds Loop and the Blue/Orange Routes will send nine buses per hour through Central Grounds and the most densely populated student areas, and provide more service along McCormick Road during busy class changes.

UTS service changes:

n Weekend service will begin at noon, instead of 11 a.m. previously. Weekend Blue/Orange buses will run at 20-minute intervals until 6 p.m., then switch to the new 12-minute schedule.

n The Stadium-Hospital Shuttle will end 40 minutes earlier than previously, at 7:24 p.m. Employees whose shifts end at 7 p.m. and miss the 7:24 shuttle may catch a Blue route bus from the hospital to the stadium at 7:30 or every 12 minutes thereafter.

Additional changes will be made when the new Emmet/Ivy parking garage opens in late October or early November.

All of these changes will increase the total number of weekly service hours from 1,450 to about 1,495. White estimated the cost of implementing the changes at about $50,000.

“I think we’re improving a lot of things for a very small increase,” she said.


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