Saturday, September 14

Campus safety should come first with late-night shuttle service


Olivia Anthony

The oft-taken journey from fraternity row to Hilgard Avenue is something that many fear making alone after a night of partying, but the lack of proper campus programs leaves them with no choice.

UCLA is one of the only major universities in the nation without a late-night shuttle service for its students, according to Stephanie Lucas, the newly elected internal vice president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council. Lucas has been working in General Representative Addison Huddy’s office since winter quarter to solve this problem, with more urgency because of the recent spike in sexual assaults on and off campus. UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California both have late-night shuttle services, according to Huddy’s office, and there is no reason UCLA does not. Their solution to this problem is UCLA Strathmore Safe Rides, a program that USAC is currently piloting.

Strathmore Safe Rides is a partnership with a private transportation company that would operate a fleet of vans in the area on college weekend nights (Thursday through Saturday nights). The service works in the following fashion: Students would pre-purchase punch cards that would guarantee a certain number of rides. These rides can be used from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. by calling the private shuttle company to drive students to their residences. The rides would end up costing about $5 each.

While it is in its pilot phase, the program will be free, so that demand and effectiveness can be gauged. If USAC finds that this program is feasible and the demand exists, UCLA needs to adopt the service and start funding it.

The program is neither the first nor the only program that provides a service for UCLA students to get home safely, but it is filling a void in operational hours that the other programs currently have, as the Community Service Officers Program offers two services that have fallen short of being effective. CSO’s first program, the Evening Van Service, operates from 6 to 11 p.m., which makes it of little use for students who need a ride home after a late night of partying or even studying in Powell Library.

“The Evening Van Service ending at 11 p.m. is a joke because most people don’t start going out until then,” said Elaine Codd, executive vice president of the UCLA Panhellenic Council.

The second CSO service, the Evening Escort Service (310-794-WALK), is marginally better in that it operates between dusk and 1 a.m. But even this does not cover the time when most students are walking home by themselves and feel unsafe. It is a bit ridiculous that one can get a walk home at 8 p.m. and not at 1:05 a.m.

Even though these narrow hours are in obvious need of expansion, Sarah Parga, the CSO manager, said in an e-mailed statement that they are not currently considering expanding the service. Huddy and Lucas both said they think that this is due to liability concerns, as drunken college students are more likely to yak in university vans, hurt themselves or do damage to university property.

A comment on the UCLA Strathmore Safe Rides Facebook page sums up the major problem the service will face: “its cool that its free for the first two weeks, but once it starts costing money, i know im just going to walk.”

USAC should be commended for reacting to the unease of students walking home alone at night given the increased number of sexual assaults. But the service is not ideal. USAC was forced to reach out to a private company since CSO is not considering expanding the service, but the private partnership should only serve as a temporary solution or as a transition into an official university program.

The infrastructure and expertise already exist. CSO could institutionalize the program, but they could also just transition their Evening Van Service into an all-night van service.

The total cost of having the university operate such a program is in our best interest because then it could be easily regulated, funded and sustained.

Institutionalizing the system is something Lucas wants to push as internal vice president for the coming year. USAC and the administration should support her efforts even though funding will inevitably come up as an issue for the university, but safety is not the kind of thing that should be furloughed for a few hours each night.

Enjoy walking home after 1 a.m. by yourself? E-mail Ramzanali at [email protected]

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