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Proposed Transpo route to run this month

Madeline Buckley | Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A new Transpo route that will drop students near common student bars and neighborhoods on weekend nights will tentatively start running this November, student body president Grant Schmidt said.

The new Transpo service, one of the main initiatives of the Schmidt-Weber administration so far this year, will run every 18 minutes from Library Circle to South Street Station from about 9 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights, Schmidt said.

“This is a new route, tailored to students, that is fast and safe,” Schmidt said. “Students will go off campus regardless so this is a safety issue and a convenience issue.”

The route, with a round-trip of 36 minutes, has not been finalized, but the proposed route has a stop on Twyckenham Drive for students living in apartments east of campus, a stop on Edison Street near the Linebacker Lounge as well as stops near Corby’s Irish Pub and The Blarney Stone, commonly referred to as Finnegan’s.

Chip Lewis, chairman of the Board of Directors for Transpo, said Transpo was willing to work with the University to add a new route because of the safety factor. Transpo does not make a profit on the added service.

“The benefit is doing good service for our community and helping students get home safely,” Lewis said. “Certainly getting home from bars at night, students are currently faced with bad situations like overpaying cabs, walking or getting in a car with someone who has been drinking.”

The new route, called 7a, will hit the streets with high numbers of student houses, such as Notre Dame Ave., Washington St. and St. Louis St., pass through downtown South Bend and return to Library Circle via Eddy Street Commons.

Schmidt said one of the biggest advantages for students is that Transpo service is paid for by the University and therefore free for students.

“Taxis are not always safe and don’t always provide the best deals,” he said.

Schmidt and student body vice president Cynthia Weber initially began looking into extending Transpo route 7, which currently runs between University Park Mall, Library Circle and South Street Station, but after talks with the University’s Office of Business Operations, they realized it would be more feasible to create a new route.

Schmidt said Business Operations is negotiating a deal with Transpo, and the cost of the route is about $25,000 annually, which exceeds student government’s budget for the project.

“What we decided to do is take money from College Readership,” Schmidt said. “Everyday we get 200 issues of the Chicago Tribune, 200 New York Times and 200 USA Todays, but we cut the Chicago Tribune subscription down to 90.”

This reallocation generated $14,000 for student government to put towards the project. Schmidt then appealed to the Office of Student Affairs to pay the remaining $11,000.
“We emphasized that this was a safety issue,” Schmidt said. “We don’t want students walking home from bars late at night.”

Fr. Mark Poorman, vice president for Student Affairs, said the Office agreed to put up the $11,000 on a trial basis.

“Our continued funding is contingent upon evaluation of the amount of ridership during this academic year, as well as continued financial support by student government,” Poorman said. “We believe this is a creative and responsible effort on the part of student government to address the needs of our students who socialize off campus and want to return to the campus safely.”

Schmidt said he has heard some criticism of the new Transpo route, namely that the service would encourage students to drink off campus and gather in residential neighborhoods.

But he said the bus stops in the neighborhoods will be at well lit street corners rather than in the middle of a residential street.

Poorman said he heard this concern was raised in the community at a Community Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC) meeting.

“It is my understanding that in a recent CCAC meeting a concern was raised about possible gatherings of riders waiting for the bus in front of residential houses,” Poorman said. “Transpo and student government have worked together to locate bus stops at places which would minimize or eliminate opportunities for neighborhood disruptions.”

Lewis said he does not expect problems resulting from students using the buses after spending the night out at a bar.

“This is a great way to serve the community by getting students home safely from downtown late at night,” Lewis said. “We expect that students will appreciate the opportunity to ride the buses safely and will govern themselves accordingly.”

Schmidt said he hopes to have the contracts and routes finalized soon and have route  maps printed and distributed to students.

“We’re really excited about this,” Schmidt said. “It’s huge that student government, Student Affairs and Transpo are collaborating on something this big.”