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Saint Mary’s expands Blinkie shuttle service to operate on Sundays

| Thursday, December 6, 2018

On the darkest December nights, the Blinkie van glows with warmth from within, promising sanctuary from the snow and a reliable ride home. Strung with brightly colored Christmas lights during the winter months, this favorite piece of Saint Mary’s campus culture has been ferrying students along the stretch of road between Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s for more than 13 years. In the past, however, the Blinkie schedule ran only Monday through Saturday, leaving some students visiting on Sundays no choice but to walk Saint Mary’s Road back to campus.

In their Student Government Association (SGA) campaign platform, student body president and senior Madeleine Corcoran and student body vice president and senior Kathy Ogden stressed the need for additional transportation on Saint Mary’s Road.

“Last year, many students had voiced their concerns regarding not having any Sunday transportation, especially between Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame’s campuses,” Corcoran said in an email. “Students who are involved in activities such as ROTC, band and Campus Ministry especially struggled with this logical challenge. Additionally, students who are taking classes at Notre Dame and often have to meet with classmates on Sundays.”

SGA approached vice president for student affairs Karen Johnson with the proposal to provide students with Sunday Blinkie transportation during the months between fall break and spring break, Corcoran said.

“Throughout the summer, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross and Notre Dame administrators worked with South Bend TRANSPO about budgeting and scheduling changes,” Corcoran said. “However, it was not in the Saint Mary’s budget for this year to add Sunday transportation. The SGA executives felt that [a Sunday Blinkie service] is a necessity for Saint Mary’s students in the winter months, so we began looking at our own budget. We decided it was possible for us to provide the additional service.”

“The Student Government Association agreed to fund the extra time and we were happy to help them,” Johnson said in an email.

SGA is currently collecting data determining if the Sunday services are frequently used, Corcoran said, and if results show that the additional Blinkie rides are benefiting the student body, SGA will propose adding the service to the College administration budget.

Corcoran and Ogden also reintroduced the idea of utilizing a Blinkie location tracker app, a project that has been explored in past years, Corcoran said. While the tracker has yet to reach development stages, Corcoran said she and her partner will be passing the baton to next semester’s incoming Student Government executives.

“It’s definitely an option and a possibility, and actually Student Government started working on it a few years ago, so they said we could pick that back up,” she said. “But at this point, it’s kind of on the back burner … hopefully we can at least start working on [the tracker app] again and then pass that on to next year’s leaders to get that started and moving forward.”

Campus safety is a top priority stressed by both the current Student Government and Saint Mary’s administrations, Corcoran said.

“Saint Mary’s Road does not get well-plowed for students in the winter time, especially for those who are trying to bike,” she said. “There are some days when it is too cold, rainy or windy for students to be outdoors for such a long time. Additionally, the transportation provides a convenience for students who have busy schedules.”

Johnson said the main goal of campus security is to educate students about general safety, as the college cannot always provide transportation off-campus.

“I think students should always be aware of their personal safety and make sound decisions about walking alone,” Johnson said. “We cannot provide transportation on-demand, but do our best to help student who need to get around. Students need to use safe transportation such as Uber, Lyft or taxi services to get places and should never walk alone.”

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