Gopher Chauffeur will test new schedule during spring semester

The free student taxi service will add three more days as part of a pilot program.

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A Gopher Chauffeur driver makes their rounds on Feb. 5, 2012.

Max Chao

Gopher Chauffeur, the University of Minnesota’s free student taxi service, will run six days a week starting this spring semester, though logistics like additional employees and costs have not been finalized.

At a Nov. 21 Minnesota Student Association meeting, the Office of Student Affairs announced the extended Gopher Chauffeur pilot program for the spring.

The service, which started in 2007, currently runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights on the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses.

The service’s supervising staff will most likely expand operation days to all weeknights, and are planning to add to the existing 64-person staff, Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs Maggie Towle said.

Details of operation hours, operation days, cost and personnel have not been finalized yet, said Mateo Frumholtz, student coordinator for Gopher Chauffeur. 

“The employees we have right now, they were attracted to this position because of the specific schedule,” Frumholtz said of the weekend hours. “I think we would have to look for employees that would enjoy that specific schedule.”

Gopher Chauffeur employees said they recognize the challenges of expanding the program, but still support its goal.

“I’m pretty excited about it, obviously our first concern with Gopher Chauffeur is making sure that everyone gets home safe… My only concern is finding students who will be willing to stay up really late on weeknights,” said junior Jayme Oberman, a driver for the service.

Current Gopher Chauffeur employees would not be required to work the extra nights, but can pick up the extra hours if they want, according to an email to all employees.

“For some people it’s not feasible, but it sounds like they’ll be really flexible…. I think it’s nice for people who want more hours to be able to work more hours. I know that I’m certainly interested,” said sophomore Emma Pitzl, a Gopher Chauffeur driver.

The program is in response to an October MSA recommendation to OSA that asked to double the nights Gopher Chauffeur is available.

“This is taking concrete steps to make campus safer. I’m incredibly grateful that our recommendations were taken seriously,” Student Body President Trish Palermo said.

The program will not be at a cost to students, and will instead be paid for partly by MSA, Towle said.

“I don’t think this is something that students should be paying for. It’s something the University should be providing,” Palermo said.

Gopher Chauffeur expansion was a key platform item for Palermo and vice president Erik Hillesheim’s MSA campaign. 

More details of the program will be shared at MSA’s Dec. 5 meeting, and Palermo said a long-term plan will be configured based off the pilot program sometime in the future.

Correction: A previous version of this article misattributed a quote. Trish Palermo said the University should be providing the free taxi service instead of students possibly paying for it.