Gopher Chauffeur routes will not expand

University officials said access to the transitway roads would require a change to school policy.

Ellen Schmidt

After waiting a year for a response from the University of Minnesota, student leaders’ requests for expanded Gopher Chauffeur routes were denied.

The Minnesota Student Association contacted University Services last year to request that Gopher Chauffeur have access to bus transitways on the Washington Avenue Bridge and between the Twin Cities campuses to increase the number of rides the service provides.

Parking and Transportation Services told the group last week that the student ride service can’t use the transitways because it would require a policy change.

Gopher Chauffeur provided 7,862 rides in fall semester — a number MSA President Joelle Stangler said could increase with access to the transitways.

“Admittance to use the transitways would insanely increase the amount of rides the Gopher Chauffer could give, cutting the 10-minute roundabout drive on the Washington Avenue Bridge to four minutes,” Stangler said.

Expanding Gopher Chauffeur routes isn’t a priority for Boynton Health Service, however, officials said.

Boynton Health Service funds and operates the student-operated, door-to-door service that provides free rides home to students Thursday through Saturday night.

Julie Sanem, Boynton’s director of health promotion and Gopher Chauffeur adviser, said expanding routes to the transitways would require additional training for drivers, which would be costly.

Gopher Chauffeur drivers must complete a background check to eliminate potential employees with moving violations before they’re hired, Sanem said, but they aren’t required to complete additional driver training.

PTS director Ross Allanson said the Board of Regents would need to amend a current ordinance in order for the Gopher Chauffeur vehicles to use the transitways.

The ordinance states that only emergency vehicles, public works, maintenance and service vehicles, and public carriers — which include those used for mass transportation — are allowed to use the University-owned transitways.

The Gopher Chauffeur does not meet the requirements of this ordinance.

PTS reached out to Stangler on Friday and said the route change isn’t possible at this time.

Administrative holdup on addressing student concerns is frustrating for MSA, Stangler said.

“Our biggest grievance is that we think that [the routes] could be good for students. … There has been a lot of administrative and bureaucratic holdup in even understanding if that can be a possibility,” she said.

Though Stangler said MSA is putting the issue on the backburner because of Boynton’s disinterest, she said she hopes to reintroduce it in the summer when it could be made a higher priority.

“We’re not necessarily interested in implementing this, we just want an answer,” she said.