Students petition for more Oxford bus service

By Liana Rosenbloom, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 2, 2012

With help from the Oxford Bus Petition, students traveling back and forth between Oxford Housing and Central Campus on weekends may no longer need to walk down South University Avenue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Creators of the petition — developed last October by the Oxford Community Council — continue to garner support for an appeal for the Oxford Shuttle to run on the same schedule on the weekend as it does during the week. Thus far, more than 900 people have signed the petition.

The shuttle runs from Oxford Housing to the C.C. Little bus stop, with stops at Shapiro Undergraduate Library, the Michigan Union and Hill Auditorium. Currently, students seeking transportation to Oxford Housing from Central Campus during midday on weekends are forced to walk or seek alternative forms of transportation, since service doesn’t begin until 5 p.m.

Oxford Housing is home to more than 350 undergraduate students according to University housing. The Sigma Alpha Mu and Phi Gamma Delta fraternities, and the Delta Gamma and Alpha Phi sororities, are also located in the Oxford area, which has had a history of crime in recent years.

LSA senior Parisa Behzadi, a diversity peer educator for Oxford Housing who oversees Oxford Community Council, said the petition follows a previous, separate request to extend Oxford bus hours from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends, which was implemented last winter. Before then, there were no Oxford buses running on Saturdays or Sundays.

Behzadi said many people signed the petition after it was introduced, but at the end of last semester, the pace began to slow. She said she then sent the petition to other diversity peer editors and asked them to forward it to other Housing staff members to rekindle interest.

The petition now has more than 900 signatures. Behzadi said the council is waiting to gain at least 1,000 signatures before presenting its requests to University administrators.

Steve Dolen, executive director of University Parking and Transportation Services, said the department takes a variety of factors into consideration when making decisions to alter bus scheduling. He added that the addition of Oxford bus hours on the weekend was not a direct response to the petition, but rather the result of an evaluation of the situation and collaboration among groups on campus.

“An evaluation process is always a collaboration between Student Affairs, Housing and other groups on campus,” Dolen said. “We don’t make decisions in a vacuum.”

Dolen said the weekend hours of 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. were chosen to give students a transportation option before SafeRide — a free service offered to students in need of transportation late at night — begins service.

Dolen declined to comment on how PTS will react to the petition since it has not yet been presented. However, he said the opinions of students and other organizations are important to PTS and would certainly be considered, adding that administrators will also take into account the financial aspect of expanding hours as they continue to reach out to members of the community.

“We would take (the petition) into consideration, with everything else, when we’re talking to these other groups, our constituents and our customers,” Dolen said. “We’re making sure we’re touching base with all the right folks and of course it comes down to making sure we’re using our resources wisely, so it’s a financial decision as well.”

Dolen added that ensuring student safety is a “key part” of PTS’ role on campus.

“It’s about supporting the academic mission, it’s about supporting the housing mission for students,” Dolen said. “Security is definitely a key piece of any decision we make.”

LSA sophomore Kristen Cleghorn, president of the Oxford Community Council, said she is motivated by the previous changes to the Oxford Shuttle hours and is looking forward to future changes.

“Now that we’ve won that battle, we’re trying to expand busing hours because the need is still high, especially in the Oxford area,” she said.

Cleghorn said the need for extended bus hours is crucial, especially because of the numerous assaults and robberies that have occurred in the Oxford area in the past.

“We think it’s really important to have hours that extend, just for everyone’s safety,” she said.

Cleghorn said she sent the petition to a number of Greek Life leaders in order to gain additional support, adding that she is pleased that the majority of them have forwarded the petition to their members, which has made a significant impact.

“I’m honestly really glad to see it picking up pace,” she said. “I’m really happy that the council has the opportunity to make such a lasting improvement to Michigan safety.”