Shuttle to Chicago is on thin ice

Dan Murtaugh

Weinberg senior Caille Sugarman-Banaszak said that in years past Northwestern’s weekend Chicago shuttle has saved her legs from unnecessary stress and her eyes from unnecessary sights on the “L.”

“It’s so nice to be driven back to campus without guys sitting in front of you without pants on,” she said.

But since Fall Quarter, Sugarman-Banaszak has had to ride the “L” downtown because the shuttle hasn’t been running.

And it might never again.

Associated Student Government senators on Wednesday will vote whether to approve next year’s budget without funding for the free Chicago shuttle. ASG is considering using the $40,000 that previously funded the shuttle to pay for a part-time lawyer to counsel students.

The shuttle has not been running since June because of problems ASG President Adam Humann faced when switching bus companies. The original company was plagued by complaints of buses running late, skipping stops and not showing up, Humann said, adding that the replacement company was not receptive to his requests.

“I just don’t know if it’s possible to do a Chicago shuttle service in a reliable and safe way for students,” said Humann, a Weinberg senior. “I don’t know if it’s in the best interest of the student body to be spending large amounts of money for something that doesn’t run.”

The shuttle service, which ran Fridays and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. and stopped at locations such as Wrigleyville and Michigan Avenue, was implemented Fall Quarter 1998 by then-ASG President Ariel Friedler.

Humann said the shuttle was a great idea, but the original bus company, Robinson Bus Services, turned the idea into a logistical nightmare.

“Shuttles are hard to run,” Humann said. “When you’re contracting to an outside company, you don’t know what quality you’re going to get.”

Humann said he did not know how many students took the shuttle each weekend.

Glenn Wright, general manager for Winkel’s Transportation, which owns Robinson, said he has never heard any criticisms from students or student leaders about the Chicago shuttle.

“We have a longstanding relationship with the university that dates back a few years,” he said. “I’ve never heard of complaints about the Friday- and Saturday-night service.”

Friedler, Weinberg ’99, said ASG should have worked harder with the shuttle company to improve its service.

“It’s kind of upsetting,” he said. “I hope that ASG doesn’t just give up on the shuttle. There are plenty of shuttle companies out there. Maybe one of them can do a better job.”

Humann said he spent all summer working out a contract with a new bus company, but when the school year started, its employees stopped returning his phone calls. He said he is considering other options for shuttling students downtown.

In the meantime, Humann said ASG should budget its money toward services that will have a more tangible effect on students, such as a part-time lawyer.

“If we can find a cheaper and more effective way to do the Chicago shuttle, we’ll try,” Humann said.

But Friedler said he doesn’t think ASG should reallocate money that could make the shuttle system work.