ASG works to implement airport shuttle legislation


MJ Gudino/The Daily Northwestern

The Associated Student Government’s proposed shuttle program would transport students to and from O’Hare International Airport and would require funding from ASG’s budget, as the University would not contribute funding to the project.

Julian Andreone, Reporter

The Associated Student Government plans to release a survey Spring Quarter to assess student interest in a free airport shuttle program, which has faced several obstacles in the executive board’s discussions with University administration. 

ASG has been pushing for a shuttle program since the Senate passed legislation to create the service for high-travel days last spring. The program would allow students free transport to and from O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport.

“Private rideshare options to travel between O’Hare International Airport, Midway Airport, and Northwestern’s Evanston campus can cost up to $100 each way, which can be a heavy financial burden for many students and inaccessible for low income students,” the original legislation states.

ASG Analytics Committee Chair and Medill senior Felix Beilin is in charge of designing the survey and has discussed the project with administration, he said. 

According to Beilin, the survey will reveal the number of students who travel through O’Hare and the time of the year students travel most.

“How likely would they be to use (the program)?” Beilin asked. “Would they be willing to pay for part of the cost, potentially? Would they be willing to use a registration form to sign up for it? What kind of incentives could we set so that students would not sign up and then not show?”

Most students who travel to O’Hare International Airport take either an Uber or the Route 250 Pace Bus, which runs from Dempster Street in downtown Evanston to O’Hare, according to ASG Executive Officer of Accountability Molly Whalen.

Beilin said the survey may also reveal if students prefer an additional shuttle system to the Route 250 Pace Bus.

According to Whalen, however, the body has faced two main issues in its attempt to start the program: money and manpower shortage.

Whalen said she spoke with the head of an airport shuttle service program at the University of Southern California, whose service costs $65,000 annually. The program at NU would cost less, according to Whalen, but it would still require “north of $40,000.”

Funding the project has been difficult because the University will not split the cost of the program with ASG, according to Whalen.

“Actually getting the buses is not the problem,” Whalen said. “But the fact that they said is that the central administration will (not) fund this project. So if this shuttle system were to exist, all the money would always have to come from ASG every year.”

ASG has also struggled to find the personnel necessary to facilitate sign-ups and other logistics necessary for the airport shuttle system, she said.

Whalen added that some University requirements for the program, like finding shuttle supervisors, have made it more difficult for ASG to implement the legislation.

“They need a student volunteer or an administrative volunteer to sit on every bus that goes to the airport to facilitate the process,” she said. “Meaning that we have to come up with manpower for every time we run a bus to have a student volunteer sitting on them.”

While the University does not currently offer transportation to the airport, it does offer a charter bus service, according to University spokesperson Hilary Hurd Anyaso. 

She said the service allows NU departments, colleges and student groups to book group transportation for special events, including airport transfers if necessary.

The University did not directly answer The Daily’s questions about obstacles to enact ASG’s proposed shuttle service.

ASG’s priority is to respond to the desires and needs of student organizations on campus, according to Beilin. He said when a project with resounding student support comes along, he is committed to working toward its enactment.

“If we can find something else that’s really important, like a bus system, and it turns out that it’s absolutely crucial and this is a huge student need … then we’ll have to consider something like that,” Beilin said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JulianAndreone

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