Night Shuttle Service Extended, Some Delays Expected
Public Safety’s night safety shuttle has extended its hours to 3 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as of Sept. 1, which has been a collaborative effort between the Department of Public Safety and ASUSF Senate since last semester to increase weekend night services by two hours.
The night safety shuttle, which provides students transportation to and from on-campus and off-campus residences, still runs from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday through Wednesday, but Thursday through Saturday, last drop-offs are now made at 3 a.m. ASUSF approved the extended hours in April of 2009, with the exception that ASUSF provided funds for the extra hours served since Public Safety did not have sufficient funds to do it on their own in the past.
Now, students have until 2:30 a.m. to request the night shuttle service for pick-up or drop-off, which is the cutoff for the days ending at 3 a.m. For days ending at 1 a.m., students have until 12:30 a.m.
“I think extending the hours will make our campus safer as long as students are aware of it and utilize it,” said junior Kendra Brazile. “When I used to use it, they stopped at 1 or 12, so if I wanted to get back to main campus, say from Lomo [Lone Mountain] or LV [Loyola Village], after those hours I would have to call public safety or walk, and I would usually end up walking.”
Although the new hours will be implemented throughout the entire school year, ASUSF is using the fall semester as a trial basis to test out the new hours. At the end of the semester, ASUSF will evaluate whether the hours have been adequately used to establish if the hours are worth keeping, said Nicole Beamer, operations manager in the Department of Public Safety.
Beamer said there has always been a need for longer hours, but with the funded resources now available by ASUSF, their partnership has made those hours possible.
“ASUSF made it a hot topic,” Beamer said, when former ASUSF president Alex Platt brought up the need for extended hours to Senate and the Department of Public Safety during the 2009 Spring semester. According to the April 21 ASUSF meeting, the idea to increase the service by only two hours on weekends was most “practical” and “effective,” based on the 110 survey responses that ASUSF received from students, in which most requested extended hours on weekends.
ASUSF estimated they would fund $22,000, which is a surplus in their budget, accounting for $17,164 in hourly compensation for drivers and the remaining sum for fuel. Although hourly compensation and fuel costs $29 an hour, drivers are paid $9 in overtime for the additional two hours served on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
But ASUSF had reservations about funding the extra hours because there were concerns of students under the influence using the shuttle. Prior to the changes, those students were not granted shuttle privileges, but now, Public Safety has made an exception. Intoxicated students are driven to their desired locations under the circumstance that drivers must call Public Safety. “We’re not going to deny students,” said Daniel L. Lawson, executive director of Public Safety. It is a relaxed policy, but proper university actions will be taken, he said. “It is a balance of safety and patience.”
Lawson said their only challenge is the availability of the shuttle. “Adding hours, there’s still a problem because of need and calls for service. We can estimate the calls, but if we get more than one to three calls at a time, people are told to please call back in 15 minutes,” he said, which delays all requests for the limited one shuttle van circulating the area. Lawson said any student could hit a bad timing in which the dispatch receives multiple calls, and delays are created not because of trying to be lax in their service, but because they are currently working on dropping other students off.
Other delays may be the result of priority given to students with disability, who make up an estimated 10 percent of the calls received. If three students are placed on a waiting list, and the fourth caller is a student with disabilities, the disabled student automatically moves up to first on the waiting list, Beamer said. Public Safety has an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) shuttle that operates in the daytime, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday, which only provides transportation to students with disabilities.
The day shuttle is a matter of convenience, Beamer said, but the night shuttle is a combination of convenience and safety.
“It’s a good thing, especially for those students that live off campus,” said junior Alexandra Garcia. “But I think that if it’s not publicized, students will not even know about the extended hours.”
The shuttle will keep the same 6-block radius that limits drops-offs and pick-ups beyond the boundaries of California Street, Divisadero Street, Fell St. and Sixth Avenue. Beamer said the limitations are for insurance purposes. Only two vehicles rotate shifts, one in the day and the other at night.
But Lawson said that just because the shuttle service ends at 3 a.m., it “doesn’t suggest that we don’t provide a safety escort.” During the hours that the shuttle is not in service, students can call Public Safety for a safety escort. A minimum of two officers and two cars are working at all hours of the day, but Lawson said if they get busy, delays will occur, particularly in emergency situations in which a student has to be taken to the hospital, for example. “Those are our weaknesses,” Lawson said.
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