Saturday, February 22

Avvalzameer Bhatia: CSO-operated weekend shuttle service would improve student safety

The Community Services Officers' programs include a van service that transports students between 7 p.m. and midnight from Monday to Thursday. However, that leaves out the days when students are most likely to go out. A CSO-operated shuttle service running between Thursday and Saturday until 2 a.m. could fill in this gap. (Daniel Leibowitz/Daily Bruin staff)

Westwood is a rather uneventful place. But when you’re walking around North Village at 1 a.m. on a Saturday, the quiet college town becomes a lot spookier. UCLA has a fix for this, though: the Community Service Officers van program – a valuable resource, except, of course, if you’re in need of it on a weekend.

CSO is a UCPD initiative that offers two free services run by students. The first is an evening escort service to which students, staff, faculty and visitors can make a call and have an escort walk with them anywhere on campus and in the Westwood village. This service is available until 1 a.m. every day and until 2 a.m. on Thursday nights. The second is the UCLA Safe Ride Service, otherwise known as the CSO evening van service, that provides transportation between various places in and around campus, and is available only Monday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to midnight.

While these initiatives are well-planned and have good intentions, many students do not take advantage of them. Matt Ellis, the CSO manager, said CSO’s services are underutilized – a troubling fact given there is certainly a need for late-night escorts and van service pickups, especially if students are intoxicated.

Moreover, some students hesitate to call for the UCPD-controlled services because they fear getting written up or facing other consequences related to underage drinking, despite CSO having no policy of writing students up. The need to phone for an escort or ask for a van through the TapRide app also poses a barrier to students’ usage of CSO’s services.

As such, CSO should expand its van program and offer a shuttle service that takes students from anywhere in North Village back to the Hill on Thursdays through Saturdays until 2 a.m. A shuttle service that regularly travels from designated areas in North Village to drop-off points on the Hill, such as Rieber Hall, Hedrick Hall and Sproul Landing, could remove some hindrances of the current van service while enabling students to better utilize CSO’s resources. Such an expansion would also better see to it that students avoid any potential harm if they are on the streets of Westwood late at night.

A good number of students choose to walk alone late at night instead of using the CSO service due to concerns of calling an officer for help. And while many students would find the CSO program useful, they often don’t know how to call for an escort or van ride.

Aakansha Tyagi, a second-year business economics and political science student, said she tends to not call for a CSO van or escort when she’s out late in Westwood because she doesn’t know how to and thinks it’s more of a hassle than just walking back alone.

Ayesha Parikh, a first-year political science student, had a similar sentiment.

“I didn’t know about the service or how to go about it, and so have never used it before,” Parikh said. “As a college student, having access to a free and safe mode of transportation on the weekends would be very helpful.”

The CSO Safe Ride Service does not operate on weekends, which is when students tend to go out into the Village the most. One way to rectify this would be through a shuttle service that operates on the weekends. This would not only make sure students have a safe way of getting back to their dorms after a night of partying or hanging out in Westwood, but also allow drivers to call for appropriate help if students need it.

Having a shuttle that runs at regular intervals, for example every 20 minutes, is more accessible. Students currently need to tell a police dispatcher their name, contact number, location and destination when they call for an escort. It is much easier to hop onto a shuttle than to make a call and go through the hassle of using an app to request the service. Students could simply need to show their BruinCards to the escort driving the shuttle in order to use the service.

The shuttle service is also a viable option. Ellis said CSO has the infrastructure to provide such a service.

“I do believe that UCPD and the transportation department could work together to make the shuttle service work without moving the budget much, if there is a demand for it and if we have the financial ability to do so,” Ellis said.

Some may argue having a shuttle service on weekends would be redundant as the escort service already operates every day, including weekends until 1 a.m., anyway. But the CSO service is currently underutilized, so it is crucial to devise methods to make sure more students make use of it.

Expanding the CSO program to include nighttime shuttles between North Village and the Hill on weekends is one precautionary measure that can help increase campus safety. That way, the next time you find yourself walking about North Village at 1 a.m., you won’t have to think twice about reaching out for safety if you need it.

Opinion columnist

Bhatia is an Opinion columnist.

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