Fee increase improves night transit service

By Ahmad Hicks, @AhicksSports_DE

The phone rings at night on the third floor of the Student Center. On one end of the phone is a student wanting a ride home, and on the other, a dispatcher for SIU’s Night Safety Transit—a service provided by student fees.

The student fee increased from $45.40 in 2013, to $46.48 in 2014. That $1.08 increase brought another seven-passenger van to SIU’s Night Safety Transit to provide students with free rides.

SIU’s Night Safety Transit service, which begin in 1980, did not allow men to ride it five years ago. It formally was run by the Department of Public Safety, but has since been taken over by the university.

Advertisement

The vans pick up students and take them where they need to go in Carbondale from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sunday to Wednesday and 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday to Saturday. The service will not provide rides to businesses along a bus route that is running.

Carbondale’s campus has some 18,000 students. To serve them, the Night Safety Transit has two vans, one of which stops running after 12 a.m. on weekends.

“We would love to expand and help more students, but if we did that, the tuition rate would go up, and we don’t want to make students pay more than they already do,” said Jeff McGoy, assistant dean of students.

During the 2013-2014 school year, the Night Safety Transit serviced 10,696 students, according to its webpage. On Thursday, the service surpassed the 9,000 mark for students receiving rides for the 2014-2015 academic year.

That number does not include students who called for a ride, but did not get picked up for various reasons.

On an average weeknight, the transit service receives from 60 to 70 phone calls, compared to the 100 to 115 calls on weekend nights.  During events such as Polar Bear, the dispatchers’ phones never stop ringing, McGoy said.

Jamesia Banks, a junior from Chicago studying television and digital media, said she enjoys her job as a driver for the transit. Banks is in her second semester working for the service.

Advertisement

“I get a radio call telling me where to go from the time I get here until the time I get off, but as long as I know students are making it home safe it doesn’t bother me,” Banks said.

But with only two drivers working at a time, McGoy said the employees can fall behind.

“With only having two vans, it can be hard trying to get to everyone,” McGoy said.

Sydney Grover, a departmental manager for Night Safety Transit, said the unit does the best it can with the amount of drivers it has.

“It can be stressful sometimes when the phone rings all night long,” said Grover, a first year graduate student in legal studies from Chicago. “The help from another dispatcher and driver could definitely be used at times.”

But employees say that frustration does not prevent the group of dispatchers and drivers from getting their jobs done.

Letitia Evans, a sophomore from Chicago studying criminal justice, said she uses the service regularly and the only negative is the wait time on certain days.

On average, the wait time for a ride is 10 minutes, but can be as long as 25 minutes depending on the volume of calls coming through, Grover said.

Dispatcher Bianca Alaniz, a senior from Chicago studying psychology, said she wishes there were more dispatchers.

“Sometimes the phones never stop ringing, and the students can be mean. Sometimes because they want a ride home as fast as possible,” Alaniz said.

Ahmad Hicks can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ahicksSports_DE.

Advertisement