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Weekend Transpo route ‘popular’

Molly Madden | Thursday, March 4, 2010

After a recent review of the Transpo weekend bus system, student government officials said the initiative has been a “popular” and much-appreciated service for students since it began operations Dec. 4, 2009.

Student body president Grant Schmidt said he is pleased with the ongoing value Transpo has provided to members of the Notre Dame community by enabling Notre Dame students to travel to popular off-campus establishments for free.

“Overall I think that this has been a great collaboration with Transpo and essentially, the city of South Bend,” Schmidt said. “It’ been a convenient way for students to go off campus and a safe means of them getting home.”

On the first Friday Transpo was available, 496 Notre Dame students used the service. Since the second weekend of operation, the number of riders has consistently totaled roughly 150 students on Fridays and Saturdays, with the only major decreases occurring on the weekends of midterms and finals.

The high rider numbers have led to a certain amount of foot traffic at pick-up locations near the local restaurants and bars Transpo serves, Schmidt said.

“All of the establishments on the Transpo route seem to have a heavy amount of traffic, especially during late-night hours when demand is high for a cab,” he said.

Schmidt said the Transpo system came from a student government concern about safety of students traveling to off-campus venues. After the Jan. 17 assault of three Notre Dame students who were waiting for the Transpo bus, Schmidt said student government has taken additional measures to ensure the continued safety of students using Transpo.

“The day after that happened, I talked to Transpo about how to address future incidents,” he said. “Student government also printed maps on cards with the Transpo route and times on it. It was one initial way to inform students of where they should be and at what time.”
Schmidt said the incident was “extremely unfortunate” but pointed out it was the only violent altercation that has occurred in relation to Transpo.

Ryan Brellenthin, Schmidt’s chief of staff, said the exchange was regrettable but overall, Transpo has been a “phenomenal” service over the past few months.

“From the beginning, Transpo has been all about safety of students when they are off campus,” Brellenthin said. “The incident was isolated and I think people would be hard-pressed to say that Transpo caused the incident.”

As a result, student government has taken steps to ensure University students are never waiting around for the bus and thereby exposing themselves to potentially dangerous activity.

“Overall, the bus has been extremely efficient,” Schmidt said. “The times on the route are approximate but if the bus is ever ahead of schedule, the driver waits until it gets back on schedule, so that way, the bus is never early.”

Student body vice president Cynthia Weber said the Transpo system has not only achieved the goals student government put forth, but has also benefited the South Bend community, where relations between the University and the city have been strained at times in the past.

“Transpo has proved to be a service to the student body. It’s both a convenient measure and a safety measure,” she said. “It’s also created bridges to the rest of the community by encouraging students to go out in South Bend.”

Brellenthin said he thinks the success of the weekend Transpo service has alerted students to the Transpo system as a whole, which allows Notre Dame students to ride to areas such as the University Park Mall free of charge.

“It has brought a greater awareness to the Transpo system as a whole, which Notre Dame has had a relationship with for many years,” he said. “This particular route is an extension of the relationship.”

Overall, student government is pleased with the success of Transpo. Schmidt said he thinks the initiative has been “popular” with the student body and he hopes it will continue next year.

The bus will stop running when the academic year concludes in May. Student body president-elect and vice president-elect, Catherine Soler and Andrew Bell, will decide whether or not the service will continue to be offered for the 2010-11 academic year.