Push for late-night U bus continues

Jens Krogstad

Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer is leading an ongoing push to add a free, late-night bus service for students. University officials, however, disagree on whether the bus would be effective.

The late-night bus would provide safe transportation between campus and nearby neighborhoods, MSA facilities and housing Chairman Tom Zearley said.

While not the main reason for the program, he said getting people home safely on weekend nights is important.

“Getting people from the bars safely home (is important) because of the danger they cause other people and themselves,” Zearley said.

With MSA footing the $6,500 bill for a pilot program that could be running within a month, the organization hopes the campus will catch late-night bus fever.

The project, which has been attempted unsuccessfully the last two years, is important to MSA because of the time and effort it has invested in it.

“It’s probably the most visible thing we’ve done in a couple years,” MSA Vice President Jeff Nath said, adding that the bus initiative could improve MSA’s image with students.

The Student Affairs Office supports the proposal, director June Nobbe said.

“We need to be exploring any kind of alternative strategies that we can to work on issues around alcohol and safety,” she said.

Parking and Transportation Services has not yet endorsed the bus plan as currently proposed.

The department is concerned the late-night bus would duplicate existing bus routes and detract from the U-Pass program. It also expressed concern over the perception that the program supports alcohol consumption.

Parking and Transportation Services marketing director Lori Ann Vicich said about one in four students owns a U-Pass, which provides unlimited rides on Metro Transit buses for $50 per semester.

“Our biggest comment to them is, ‘You might want to take a look at the fact that with the money you have, you can’t provide better service than what’s already there,’ ” Vicich said.

In a meeting with Zearley on Monday, Vicich said her department suggested the MSA look at something similar to the campus escort service, where transportation would be available on call.

The University’s walking escort service is available 24 hours a day anywhere within about a mile of campus.

Students interviewed Wednesday supported the idea of a late-night bus service.

“If they did it ’til bar (closing) time, I think it’d be a really popular thing,” history junior Jason Brazil said. “I think that anything you can give us that’s free gets my vote – and I’d get to see my student fees (money) at work.”

History junior Chris Wochos said he does not use city buses because the $1.25 bus fare is too steep, but he said he would try the program.

Parking and Transportation Services and MSA will meet to hash out plan details.

MSA wants the bus to make a comprehensive sweep through the Minneapolis campus. It is tentatively scheduled to run every 30 minutes, from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., Monday through Saturday.

Other universities have late-night buses available, including a few Big Ten schools.

Michigan State University partners with the Capitol Area Transportation Authority to provide four university routes that run until 2 a.m. every day.

There is also a Night Owl program available that only serves students getting around Michigan’s campus. Students can call from any campus phone to have a small bus pick them up from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays, and 2 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekends.

Students can purchase a variety of passes, including a $45 semester pass that is good for any Capitol Area Transportation Authority bus. Bus fare is 50 cents.