Students comment on Blinkie schedule change
Sara Schlecht | Friday, November 1, 2019
Riding on Blinkie is a time-honored tradition for Saint Mary’s students. The dark blue van with an eponymous orange blinking light on top runs on campus from dark until 2 a.m. each day, taking students to their various on-campus destinations, such as residence halls and the library when they might not want to walk alone. Blinkie’s route includes the Grotto after The Sweep stops for the night. Stops at the Grotto also occur on the weekends, when “The Sweep” does not run.
In an email sent to the Saint Mary’s student body Oct. 27, vice president for student affairs Karen Johnson said Blinkie service would begin at noon on Saturdays and Sundays, making its usual route on campus before going to the Grotto at Notre Dame. According to the email, the route should take about 45 minutes.
Last year, Blinkie made trips to the Grotto on Sunday afternoons from fall break to spring break.
Sunday Blinkie service was funded by the Student Government Association (SGA) last year. Since The Sweep no longer runs on Saturdays, transportation between Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, an additional day of the service was added for this year.
In a subsequent email, Johnson said the service was utilized by many students last year. SGA will once again be paying for this service, she said.
Freshman Madi Holdsworth said she and her friends ride in Blinkie every weekend and at least one time during most weeks.
“We love Blinkie,” Holdsworth said. “It’s a great idea.”
She said she sometimes walks to Notre Dame on Sundays for Mass but would not be affected much by the Sunday service because it begins later than she would leave Saint Mary’s to attend Mass.
Because of its service to the Grotto, Blinkie affects more than just Saint Mary’s students. Without the Transpo Midnight Express running on Friday and Saturday nights, the van is the only free transportation between Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.
Notre Dame junior Spencer Buzdon said he’s taken Blinkie numerous times over the past several years and has noticed a change in the experience of the ride.
“Now that they’ve cancelled the Midnight Express, I feel like Blinkie has been a lot more crowded and difficult to use,” Buzdon said. “I think it’s even a matter of safety.”
Every time he has ridden in the van this year, someone has been forced to stand, he said. Sometimes Buzdon himself stands in the trunk.
“This year, I’ve found that Blinkie is really trying to pick up the slack that has been left by the Midnight Express, and it’s not equipped to do that job,” Buzdon said.
Saint Mary’s students have also noticed a crowded van on Friday and Saturday nights.
“I don’t take [Blinkie] often, but there’s only been one time this year that I wasn’t standing in the trunk,” junior Brynne Volpe said.
While current freshmen did not have the opportunity to utilize the Midnight Express, they have also reported that the van is occasionally uncomfortable and crowded.
“There was a time the first weekend that [my friends and I] were on Blinkie, and there were people on top of each other and in the trunk,” freshman Elena Sarmiento said. “In the trunk, people would just stand and pack together.”
Since then, Sarmiento said she has seen large crowds late on weekend nights.
Despite these challenges, Johnson said the number of riders on Blinkie has not changed significantly.
“Our Saturday and Sunday late night usage was busy for the first two weeks of classes,” Johnson said. “It has, however, leveled out to usage similar to last year.”
Even when the van is crowded, students feel a sense of safety and community when they take advantage of the Blinkie service
“You know when someone who’s not from Saint Mary’s is getting on Blinkie, and you know the drivers, too,” freshman Fiona Connelly said.
She said the Blinkie drivers are always kind to student riders.
“They’re so nice,” she said. “There was one time when someone felt sick, and [the driver] gave her a recycling bin.”
Holdsworth said a driver once gave her a cough drop when she was coughing during a ride. Connelly praised the drivers for their attention to their riders.
“The drivers are very chill, very nice and very thoughtful,” Connelly said.