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A Safe Ride called overwhelming success

By Jeremy Hylton

Use of the new safety shuttle is very heavy after little more than a month of service, according to Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin.

"Originally we thought that this thing would take off within six months or a year's time," Glavin said. "It really took off within the first four days."

The 12-passenger van runs from 6 pm to 3 am Sunday through Wednesday, and until 4 am Thursday to Saturday. The shuttle was intended to lighten the burden on the Campus Police escort service, which still runs during hours the van does not.

Rides on the van are available to all members of the MIT community. "I think that the primary emphasis has been on the student side," Glavin explained.

Preliminary estimates indicated that about 60 people ride the van each night. "We're collecting a lot of usage from the Boston fraternities and independent living groups," Glavin said.

The shuttle service's popularity was difficult to predict, in part because the previous escort service did not run to living groups in Boston. Official statistics for van use were not available yet, but Glavin said the van spends more than half its time in Boston.

"One of the things we were hoping would happen is that it would be overwhelmingly successful," said Jennifer B. Singer '92, co-chair of the Undergraduate Association's Campus Safety Committee, which proposed the shuttle service.

She said that the success could overload the service and help convince the administration to fund another van. The provost's office bears operating costs for the van, which will run about $50,000 for the first year, according to Provost Mark S. Wrighton.

Though the van runs through the weekend hours when fraternity parties are held, there have been few problems with the riders. Glavin noted a few occasions when riders had too much to drink and became "rowdy."

"The first weekend the shuttle was in operation we got a report that some individuals on the 500 block of Beacon Street were disrupting the van. They were shaking it," said Neal H. Dorow, advisor to fraternities and independent living groups. Glavin asked Dorow to handle the matter, because the primary riders of the van in that area live in ILGs.

"The incident was minor, but the results could be very major if they aren't controlled," Dorow said.

Dorow talked to the Interfraternity Council President's Council about the problem. He is also working with the IFC's community relations officer to prevent another incident from occurring.

Glavin said the initial purpose of the van was safety of individual travelers, but many people ride for convenience. "There has been a major shift in the original purpose of the campus escort," Glavin said.

The heavy student use has turned into long waits for the van. Glavin said that she has received some complaints that the wait for the van to arrive is too long. Some students have waited as long as an hour, according to Singer. During the summer months, the wait should be shorter, because fewer students will be riding the van, Glavin said.

The heavy use of the van was expected, but not so soon after it started running, Glavin said. "None of this has taken us by surprise," she said. The heavy use prompted the Campus Police to begin considering options to improve service.

"In terms of the problems, the difficulty is that we have only one van," Glavin said. The system also strains the Campus Police dispatch service, which provides communication between the van driver and riders.

Glavin will consider options to lighten the load on the van and the dispatch service. Singer added, "Now we're looking at getting another van and some set routes." Singer said the creation of two routes, one for the Cambridge side of the river and another for the Boston side, was being considered.

Initially the shuttle service was meant to take some load off the Campus Police officers. "With the other things they had to do, they just couldn't keep up," Glavin said.