Central Student Government to explore implementation of late-night buses

By Stephanie Dilworth, Daily Staff Reporter
Published June 25, 2013

For the late-night library goers wanting additional options to travel to their off-campus homes, there may be hope.

Central Student Government is currently exploring the possibility of a late-night, off-campus bus route designed to supplement other forms of transportation such as SafeRide, the free late-night service that provides students transportation after the regular buses have stopped running.

The plan is in its early stages and CSG is formulating rough drafts of potential bus routes. Their efforts are now focused on determining optimal bus ride lengths and figuring out the best bus stops. Current bus stops are predicated to be incorporated into the plan.

Some potential routes being explored include one that travels with stops on Packard Street, South University Avenue, Geddes Avenue and East Huron Street.

CSG reported that a draft route proposal is scheduled for completion by September 2013. After the proposal is released, students will have an opportunity to give feedback on the bus routes.

Business senior Michael Proppe, president of CSG, said CSG has begun exploring ways to fund the project and will not formally reach out to anyone until a proposal has been developed.

Proppe said because this is a CSG-initiated project, it would provide some funding but would be speaking with various departments within the University to look for ways to fund the project.

According to a cost estimate provided to CSG by the Department of Public Safety, the cost of running a potential off-campus bus system with two buses for five hours running on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays would cost $62.50 per hour for each bus. That totals to roughly $25,000 for one semester.

“We want to make sure that the students utilize this resource,” Proppe said. “We want student focus groups to help us with finalizing routes.”

He said part of the reason he is urging for the implementation of additional bus routes is what he believes is an ineffective SafeRide system.

“SafeRide is over capacity right now,” Proppe said. “There are three SafeRide vans and we have hundreds of students trying to get home late at night. Students end up walking home alone because they don’t want to wait for an hour for SafeRide at the library or wherever they are and don’t want to pay for a cab.”

Proppe said the idea of an off campus bus route was the most popular of the campaign platforms that CSG presented and he thinks it's crucial for the welfare of University students.

“The off campus busing is something we are hoping will alleviate some of the current problems,” he said. “I think this is really important for the safety of students at this school who live off campus.”

However, University Transportation Manager Jason Bidwell said that the current SafeRide program was not problematic. Bidwell said he believes that the University’s available transportation resources are more than sufficient for University students.

“We do have a number of late night transportation options and they have met the demands of students thus far,” Bidwell said. “There have not been excessive wait times. They serve the campus in general and a small area close to campus.”

Current methods of transportation at the University include the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which allows students to ride for free when they use their M-Card; Ride-Home which allows students, faculty and staff to share a cab with limited locations and operates after University buses stop running; SafeRide, which is available when University buses are still in operation and NightRide which is another shared cab ride service which operates when AATA buses is not operating. NightRide is five dollars per person and goes anywhere in Ann Arbor and small sections of Ypsilanti.

“We have always carefully examined the demand of the frequency of the service in order to meet not only the needs to students but employees and others using our services,” Bidwell said.

He added that the Transportation Department is always open to ways to improve the University’s transportation.

“I think we are always willing to look at possible improvements for the safety of the University populous in general and improving the safety of the community.”

Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated Bidwell’s position on the SafeRide program. He said the program was not problematic rather than problematic. The article also stated that RideHome ran when AATA buses did not. RideHome operates after University buses do not.