MSA van to provide students with safe rides home

Starting Feb. 9, the service will take students in the area home – regardless of intoxication.

Elizabeth Cook

Starting next month, one phone call will provide students a free ride home in a silver Plymouth Voyager.

The minivan ride is courtesy of the Minnesota Student Association in an attempt to keep students safe by giving them door-to-door service at night.

Starting Feb. 9, students will be able to call a phone number between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday to have the van pick them up and drop them off.

The van will seat five, and one person per group must have a University student identification card, said Nathan Olson, the academic and services chairman for MSA.

The van will take riders anywhere between the Southeast Como neighborhood, Dinkytown, the West Bank and the St. Paul campus.

The total cost of the project will be $11,000 and will come from MSA fees, Olson said.

Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney Pub and Grill, is contributing $1,000 and plans on doing so every year if the service continues.

“I just think it’s a great program,” he said. “Anything geared toward safety Ö especially since the onset of violence in the fall.”

Journalism sophomore Sarah Marrone said she lives in Maplewood, but if she was staying in the campus area she would call for the van “if I was ever in a situation where I feel uneasy.”

MSA Vice President Monica Heth said students can call for a ride home even if they are intoxicated because that’s when they are prime robbery victims.

If someone seems too intoxicated, it is up to the discretion of the driver if they want to give them a ride, Olson said.

In the beginning of the fall semester MSA began thinking of a way to get students home, even if they didn’t live on campus, Olson said.

The idea of offering a bus service was tossed around, but it just wasn’t cost-effective, Heth said.

A bus service also couldn’t drop students off in front of their homes, so they would still walk home at night.

The Security Monitor Program, which is a branch of the University Police Department, already has a walking escort service for students, Heth said.

The van will add more safety than an escort, she said.

“I don’t know if adding one person is going to make it infinitely safe,” Heth said.

MSA also considered a pedicab, which is a bicycle-driven drop-off service, Olson said.

“But we just felt it wouldn’t be a good use of fees,” he said.

For the start of the program, executive committee members from MSA agreed to drive the van, but the position is open to other eligible students.

Drivers need to be at least 20 years old and have a good driving record, Page said.

Students won’t get paid for driving, but they can put the hours toward “Lend a Hand, Hear the Band,” a free concert put on in April for those who volunteer 10 hours during the semester, Page said.

Though the service isn’t running yet, there are some students who don’t see a need for the van.

Social science junior Patty Haw said she works early in the morning and often leaves a party before everyone else and ends up walking home alone.

“Being a 6-foot-tall girl, I don’t feel helpless very often,” she said. “I don’t look at myself as a victim.”

First-year student Cory Aaland said he probably won’t use the service because he feels safe walking home by himself in the neighborhoods surrounding campus.

“It’s kind of different when you’re a guy,” he said. “It’s not really an issue.”