Late-night bus proposal begs many questions

After two years of attempting to make additional late-night busing happen, the Minnesota Student Association plans to try the service by mid-semester. Although the MSA-run and sponsored trial will continue only as long as the $6,500 it allotted for the pilot program lasts, it might be enough time to determine whether the service is needed.

If MSA deems the trial a success, MSA will need to create a plan to defend the program’s continuation and come up with long-term funding for it. We see valid safety reasons for the service but also have concerns with it.

The East Bank and Washington Avenue Bridge circulators stop at 4:45 p.m., leaving thousands of night-class students without bus service in parts of campus. MSA tentatively plans to provide service from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday with a 2 a.m. extension Thursday through Saturday. Because some libraries on weekdays close at midnight and campus bus services stop at that same time, MSA would provide an extra half-hour of service for library users. MSA’s trial might or might not prove a definite need for the evening service, but there are probably valid reasons why Parking and Transportation Services chose not to fill these weekday gaps.

Perhaps a larger concern is the student demand for post-midnight service that is arguably more MSA’s responsibility than Parking and Transportation Services’. MSA is unsure whether First Student can even provide drivers until 2 a.m., however. If it cannot, MSA should reconsider whether to provide late-night service at all. Additionally, with each bus costing at least $54 an hour, MSA might not be able to afford two, as it ideally wants. This would mean students might wait half an hour for a bus. In freezing weather, would-be users might just choose to walk.

A final concern MSA must address is practicality. With a bus, students still have to get to and from the bus stop. Campus escorts can walk a person right to the door. How many more of them could be hired for the price of one or two buses?