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Student Safety Shuttle Begins Operation: 11: 11

By Karen Kaplan
Executive Editor
____Last year witnessed the birth of MIT's safety shuttle system, "A Safe Ride," and its evolution from a one-van on-call service into a multiple-van program with designated routes in Cambridge and Boston.

The movement to create a shuttle system around campus was spearheaded by the Undergraduate Association's Campus Safety Committee last spring out of concern for the safety of members of the MIT community who had to walk alone after dark.

The shuttle service, which was made available to the entire Institute community last May, originally offered rides on request all around the campus and to independent living groups near Central Square and in Boston. The shuttle largely replaced the campus police nighttime escort service, Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin said.

The first van was purchased by the Department of Housing and Food Services for $20,000. Operating costs, including the wages of three drivers for each van, are paid by the Provost's Office.

The startup of the shuttle service had been delayed repeatedly during the spring term because of complications in the hiring procedure for drivers and trouble finding vans of the proper size.

System grew quickly

In early November, a second van joined the safety shuttle fleet. The two vans continued to run on a request-only basis for another month, although proposals were under consideration to convert the system into one with designated routes in Cambridge and Boston.

In December, such a route system was adopted. Riders now wait at designated stops for a van to appear according to a schedule. The two vans now travel separate routes, with one circling the MIT campus and the other visiting ILGs in Boston. Both vans stop outside Building 7, so riders who need to transfer from one route to the other can do so.

The routes do not go to pika, Zeta Beta Tau or Epsilon Theta. Students who would like a ride from those places must call in advance.

"Changes were originally made because Campus Police was getting swamped with calls from people going to parties," said van driver Katie O'Ryan. "The van was becoming a party van, not a police-run escort van. The system had to be changed," she said.

One problem brought on by expansion was "concern about safety levels at different stops," said UA President Stacy E. McGeever '93. The safety committee considered adding lights at certain stops, but no progress was made.

Shuttle's purpose questioned

Since the program started, the purpose of the shuttle has been debated. The program's initial goal was safety, but many students now want a full-blown transportation system, said Anne S. Tsao '94, co-chair of the safety committee.

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

A full-blown operation seems likely in the next 20 years, according to Stephen D. Immerman, director of special services. "One has to assume that the institution will evolve into a more fleet-type operation" like the one at Harvard University, he said.