Starting Saturday, Northwestern students can take an expanded shuttle service to popular stops in downtown Chicago as part of a pilot program during Fall Quarter, Associated Student Government President Neal Sales-Griffin said.
Dubbed the “Chicago Express,” the new shuttle will run each Saturday in October and November, picking up students at locations along the Purple Express route on Sheridan Road and making stops downtown near the Water Tower, the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier and several museums in the city.
“This is a safe and simple way for students to get access to one of the best resources this school has to offer,” Sales-Griffin said.
ASG’s External Relations Committee and the Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee proposed the Saturday shuttles last Winter Quarter after receiving overwhelming student interest in an ASG poll, Sales-Griffin said. In April, the university announced it would fund the program, allocating $12,000 for the project. Sales-Griffin said the funds were supposed to sustain the shuttles for the entire academic year. With increasing fuel costs, however, the pilot program will only run during Fall Quarter.
The limited funding allows for one bus to run approximately every one hour and forty minutes, said University Services assistant manager Marge Grzeszczuk.
“We receive a lot of regular requests for Saturday service,” she said. “Because this is a pilot program, we’re encouraging all students to utilize it.”
ASG will track how many students use the shuttles to help formalize a year-long proposal and secure funds.
“We’re still trying to figure out how to run shuttles efficiently,” Sales-Griffin said. “We’re not sure about the winter or spring yet; right now our focus is on the fall.”
Unlike the Intercampus Shuttle, the Chicago Express will not stop at NU’s downtown campus.
This quarter, the Chicago Express will run from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays with home football games. On other Saturdays, the shuttle will run from noon to 11 p.m.
On certain days, the shuttle will follow a shortened route and only make selected stops. Like the Intercampus Shuttle, the Chicago Express will be free for NU students with WildCARDs.
Weinberg sophomore Lauren Hild said she will “definitely” use the shuttles, especially to get to areas like Millennium Park that aren’t as accessible via the El.
“Right now I take the El to go downtown,” she said. “Even though the (El) stops are close to campus, it’s a long and exhausting process and it requires you to switch trains, which sometimes leaves you waiting at Howard for 30 minutes.”
NU last offered a Saturday Chicago shuttle service from 2001 to 2003, but ended its $30,500 contract with the bus company for a number of reasons.
To ensure the shuttle’s success this time around, ASG will do “every single thing possible to get students to use the shuttles,” including advertising through Facebook groups and campus-wide e-mails, Sales-Griffin said. He said he is optimistic about the long-term feasibility of the Saturday shuttles.
“The shuttles have been in high demand and we’re really excited about getting this going,” he said.