MSA Express keeps on truckin’

During the semester, ridership has gone up from 30 to 40 people to 80 people.

Amber Kispert

With the crime alerts in recent weeks, walking home at night can be a scary thing for University students. The Minnesota Student Association offers a service that could get students home safely.

The MSA Express is a free curb-to-curb van service that runs Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

At the beginning of the semester, the MSA Express averaged 30 to 40 students a night, now the average is near 80.

The MSA Express has become so popular this past semester that some students have refused rides because of the extended wait time. According to MSA’s Web site, students who wish to use the MSA Express are encouraged to call at least 30 minutes beforehand, to allow time for the van to reach the destination. The final call of the night is taken at 2:30 a.m.

Stephanie Payne, academics and services committee chairwoman for MSA, said she is very pleased with how well the service has been doing this semester.

“It’s completely first-come first-serve where we end up going,” she said. “We never tell anyone they can’t get a ride, but sometimes the wait is so long that they cancel.”

The MSA Express first launched last spring and was not as successful as some might have hoped. The unimpressive numbers resulted in the cutting of MSA’s funding for this year.

Recommendations by the Student Services Fees Committee stated that because the MSA Express was a pilot project and didn’t address disability students, the program didn’t warrant the use of student services fees.

This semester MSA proved to the SSFC that the MSA Express can be a successful service.

“There’s a demand for our curb-to-curb service that wasn’t available until we provided it,” Payne said. “There’s a perceived sense of diminishing safety, there’s a huge demand for that kind of service.”

Dan Farrar, assistant program manager for the University Security Program through the University Police Department, said he thinks the MSA Express is an important safety measure to have on a campus.

“Though the hours for the service are limited, I think it is a very useful service,” he said. “It gives students alternative transportation options and could potentially deter them from driving while impaired.”

The MSA Express caters to all three University campuses as well as surrounding neighborhoods like Cedar-Riverside and Como.

The boundaries the MSA Express serves are greater than those of the University escort service and can cater to areas they can’t, Payne said.

Drivers of the MSA Express, which costs $8,000 a year to operate, are mostly all MSA members and work on a volunteer basis.

“On a busy night, if they’re friendly, they’ll get good tips,” Payne said.

A driver must be 20 years old and be approved by at least one MSA executive board member.

Accompanying the driver is an assistant driver who is responsible for taking phone calls and recording in the log, Payne said.

MSA President Emma Olson said the MSA Express is an important service to ensure the safety of students on campus and needs to be provided to students.

“I think MSA was a good place to start it off, and I hope we can move forward to branching it off and making it more successful in the future,” she said.