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Transpo offers new routes for ND/SMC

Maddie Hanna | Monday, August 29, 2005

For cash-strapped students, it’s a lot better than hitchhiking.

The South Bend Public Transportation Corporation (TRANSPO) has established a public route that lets Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students, faculty and staff ride for free, provided they show identification.

“Over the years we hear from different community groups about service needs,” TRANSPO general manager Mary McLain said. “This will provide greater connectivity for college age passengers to businesses in the community.”

A new routing loop called The Sweep will travel between Notre Dame, Angela and State Road 933, University Village and Saint Mary’s. The Sweep will connect with the pre-existing but newly modified Route #7 at Library Circle. Route #7 will now include stops along the Grape Road corridor.

Dan Skendzel, director of administrative services for the University, said the new routes use Angela and SR 933 to get to Saint Mary’s, no longer traveling on Holy Cross Drive like last year’s shuttle.

“I think the new route serves the primary access points to Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s,” Skendzel said. “And the trolley concept is visually appealing.”

Skendzel said TRANSPO came to him with an acceptable proposal after discussion with Notre Dame student government, the Student Activities Office, Notre Dame Security/Police and Saint Mary’s.

“TRANSPO recognized an underserved population center at our campuses,” Skendzel said. “They began asking the University and Saint Mary’s what the transportation needs were for students, faculty and staff.”

Student body president Dave Baron said his involvement with the project began with students who were unsatisfied with South Bend transportation options.

“We had received complaints about gouging taxi fares, inconvenience, lack of alternative means of transportation as compared to peer schools, and especially, safety,” Baron said.

So in fall 2004, student government representatives went to the Board of Trustees with a presentation on off-campus safety recommending the SafeBus, a proposed late night bus service for students. The trustees reacted negatively to the idea.

“When the University expressed their reluctance to the bus, we continued to explore other options,” Baron said.

In spring 2005, Baron and former student body president Adam Istvan met with McLain, and the TRANSPO talks began. Baron said he thinks the service will greatly benefit students.

“I recognize that some [students] now are a bit weary to venture out with public transportation,” Baron said. “I do believe that any reluctance to ride TRANSPO will dissipate quickly as more students ride the bus and witness how clean, safe and convenient it is.”

McLain, who said TRANSPO has been working on this plan for a while, was optimistic about the future of the new routes.

“We are confident that this offering is going to be so popular that [usage] will continue to grow,” McLain said.

An off-campus student himself, Baron said he had already used the system to travel to and from campus for classes three times and on Friday nights.

“Once you have the schedule in your hand, the system is easy to navigate,” he said.

Several Saint Mary’s freshmen were enthusiastic about the new service.

Meghan Conaty, who used TRANSPO to go to Zahm Hall Saturday night, said she found the system efficient and appreciated not having to worry about getting a cab.

Emily Cwidak-Kusbach, who used TRANSPO to get football tickets and to travel to Alumni Hall, agreed with Conaty about the convenience.

“It is always there when you need it, it is free, and you never have to worry about needing a ride,” Cwidak-Kusbach said.

But she said the actual ride Saturday night was “claustrophobic,” noting the three-to-a-seat, standing room only crowd.

The Sweep will operate year round from 7 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with additional hours on Friday nights until 2:30 a.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. Extended hours for Route #7 are until 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Neither The Sweep nor Route #7 runs Sundays.