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Safe Ride system expands

By Jeremy Hylton

A second safety shuttle van began operating this weekend, as part of an effort to relieve the heavily-burdened Safe Ride program. The two vans will continue to run on demand when community members request rides.

The Safe Ride program, which began last spring, has been used heavily by students and staff. "We have a very over-burdened system. We've got a shuttle running on demand and . . . you have to wait an hour and a half for a ride," said Anne S. Tsao '94, co-chairman of the Undergraduate Association Safety Committee.

Tsao was skeptical of the benefits a second van would bring. Some people do not use the van because the wait is so long, but they may reconsider now that there are two, she said.

In an effort to make the system more efficient, the safety shuttles will probably begin running on designated routes in Boston and Cambridge later this year. Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin, who supervises the operation of the shuttle, hopes the new system will begin by December.

When implemented, the shuttle will be divided into two routes, one for Cambridge and the other for Boston. The Cambridge route will be approximately 20 minutes long and the Boston ride about 45 minutes. The two routes will overlap outside Building 7.

The route system will be advantageous for two reasons: It will relieve the burden of the campus police dispatcher, and reduce the number of students using the shuttle for convenience's sake, Glavin said.

"We're hoping it will reduce the load on our dispatchers . . . and allow them to address emergency and medical calls," Glavin said.

The route system may also discourage students from using the van as a convenience, because they will no longer be able to call for rides.

Shuttle emphasis shifted

from safety to convenience

Since the program started, there has been debate about the purpose of the shuttle. The program's initial goal was safety, but many students now want a full-blown transportation system, Tsao said.

Students must now convince the Institute that they want a convenience system, she said. If students argued strongly for it, "I'm sure [administrators] would be very favorable to a large convenience system," she said.

Campus Police will continue to advertise the shuttle service as intended for the safety of students and staff. "Our perspective is that it was designed primarily as safety transportation," Glavin said. "We will definitely put the emphasis on the safety aspect."

The Undergraduate Association will discuss the issue at its council meeting on Thursday. Discussion will be limited though, said Tsao.

It is unlikely that the program will change in the near future, according to Glavin. "I think that the two [vans] should address the problem," she said.

If the program were expanded, it is uncertain whether the campus police would continue to run it. Eventually the program could be contracted out to a private company, according to UA President Stacy E. McGeever '93.

"It's certainly questionable that we would operate it if it became a full-blown operation," Glavin said.

Looking about 20 years into the future, a full-blown operation seems likely, according to Steven D. Immerman, director of special services. "One has to assume that the institution will evolve into a more fleet-type operation," he said.

More immediate expansion of the program is not very likely, Immerman added. "Between here and there [a large operation] is an awful long way and there are a lot of variables that haven't been answered," he said.