New student-designed Gopher Chauffeur vans roll out

Boynton Health Service is hoping to serve more students and create a more welcoming atmosphere.

Sophomore Collin Klimisch navigates for the Gopher Chauffeur on Thursday night. Gopher Chauffeur is undergoing design changes to increase its vans' appearance.

Juliet Farmer

Sophomore Collin Klimisch navigates for the Gopher Chauffeur on Thursday night. Gopher Chauffeur is undergoing design changes to increase its vans’ appearance.

Molly Michaletz

Due to heavy ridership and the need to stand out on the streets, the University of Minnesota’s fleet of Gopher Chauffeur vans will soon sport a new design — from front to back, they’ll be covered in maroon and gold.

As Boynton Health Service preps for another busy year of operating the free campus transportation service, Gopher Chauffeur will maneuver campus roads with new decals, which are set to launch in the coming weeks.

The new look, which students played a part in designing, aims to attract the eyes of students and to create a more welcoming atmosphere for riders.

“We want to make it something the students will want to get a ride in,” said Dave Golden, Boynton’s director of public health and communications.

Last spring, Gopher Chauffeur and 22 students in the College of Design teamed up to create the new exterior for the vans. Gopher Chauffeur staff members chose one student’s “cab-like” design touting school colors because of its “eye-catching” logo, Golden said.

The old, neutral-colored vans previously displayed the logo on the rear window. The new design will wrap the entirety of the vehicles, giving them a clearer distinction from other cars, Golden said.

Although Boynton is expecting many riders this fall, he said, ridership has remained consistent since the spring and Boynton won’t add more vehicles until there’s an increase in demand.

The vans provided more than 5,000 rides to students last fall, and Golden said that number increased in the spring semester.

Last year, the Minnesota Student Association successfully pushed to extend Gopher Chauffeur’s service last fall because of safety concerns surrounding an increase in crime near campus.

A new weekend bus circulator also began running last week from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on the same nights Gopher Chauffeur runs — Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays — because of student demands.

Currently, four vans run on Thursdays and five circulate on the weekends, providing rides from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Even though the vans are consistently busy those days, Golden said, Boynton is hoping the new design will further increase students’ interest in using the service.

Boynton also pushed promotional efforts throughout freshman and transfer student orientations this year to pique ridership interest, he said.

Strategic communications sophomore Madeline Harpell said she used the free service every weekend last winter. She said the “fun” atmosphere, along with the student drivers, made the experience enjoyable.

“Riding the Gopher Chauffeur is always fun,” she said.