Shuttle system plans to add new bus stops

Abha Bhattarai

Changes to Northwestern’s shuttle system and Escort Service are under way in hopes of increasing safety for students, officials said this week.

The Purple Route -a 30-minute shuttle service that takes students from the University Library to Ryan Field – now stops at Oak Avenue and Davis Street. There are plans to add stops at Foster Street and Sheridan Road, as well as Sherman Avenue and University Place in response to requests from students and Escort Service, said Debbie Garfi, a senior manager in University Services.

Although Garfi said it is still too early in the year to gauge student riding patterns, the changes reflect increased shuttle use during the 2004-05 school year.

Escort Service is also making changes. Rides will be offered an hour earlier, at 9 p.m., beginning Friday.

Having the cars available for a longer time period is a response to recent assaults and robberies on campus, said Ben Brenner, the escort service coordinator.

At an average of 81 calls per night, student demand for escort service is about the same as it was last year, but a shortage of drivers has left Escort Service in a bind.

There are now 23 drivers, Brenner said. He said he hopes to hire 15 more as soon as possible.

Escort Service has been trying to attract more drivers by advertising around campus and asking drivers to talk to passengers, Brenner said.

“We ask drivers to talk to passengers about the job and make sure all cars have applications,” Brenner said. “Most of the workers we have now used to be regular passengers. I’ve been reading a lot of applications and most of them say, ‘I first became a part of the Escort Service by riding it.’ Those students are our target right now.”

But one student shuttle service will not see a boost. The Purple Express shuttle – which runs from the library to the Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center – will now run every 15 minutes, as opposed to the 10-minute routes they were on last year.

Garfi said the new schedules will allow the shuttle to be more on time for students since it always lagged behind last year.

“We had to expand the Purple Express to keep accurate times on the schedule,” Garfi said. “The Purple Express is used quite a bit, and with loading and unloading passengers, 10 minutes was not adequate time.”

Students said they welcome the new changes – even if that means the Purple Express shuttle runs less often.

“I depended on the shuttle during the winter to go to the library every night last year,” McCormick junior Parmede Vakil said. “It was consistently late by 10 or 15 minutes, so that was an extra 10 or 15 minutes I’d be waiting in the cold. This year, though, the shuttle is here when the schedule says it will be.”

The additional stops will be added to the Purple Route within the next month, Garfi said. It will still run every 30 minutes.

Reach Abha Bhattarai at [email protected]