Controversy arises over UW shuttle service statistics at Feds’ meeting

Nov 23, 2012 · News · By Catherine Vendryes

Courtesy Feds
Feds VP Internal Alexandra Russell wants to explore bringing back WalkSafe.

Supporters of the campus shuttle service are frustrated about how the last Feds and student council committee meeting, which took place Nov. 11, handled its investigation into cancelling the shuttle service in favour of WalkSafe.

According to representatives of the shuttle program the WalkSafe representative, Feds VP Internal Alexandra Russell, used outdated information about the shuttle service in her arguments. The statistics used were allegedly five years out of date, and representatives from the on-campus and off-campus shuttles were not given the chance to correct any incorrect information, nor were they informed that the discussion regarding the program was to take place during that meeting.

The Feds and student council meeting resulted in a research committee being created to look deeper into student safety programs.

According to Georgescu, the shuttle service has been an immense success, especially in comparison to the previous WalkSafe program. In the first year of the on-campus shuttle, it moved about 18,000 students and in the second year over 19,000 – which led them to expand to a second van due to the high demand.

Goeorgescu believes that the facts used by the WalkSafe representatives are from the 2007 proposal that the on-campus service made for the second van. At the time, the shuttle service was also running with a single dispatcher, a position which was eliminated last fall.

In a statement to Imprint, however, Russell noted that the figures had been confirmed with Dan Anderson, director of Police Services, who manages both the on–campus and off–campus shuttle programs. The WalkSafe program was originally shut down due to the costs of licensing their walkers as bodyguards — a key argument for keeping the shuttle service and not returning to WalkSafe.

“To me it makes a lot of sense, if you’re asking people to go about the city walking others, they should have self-defence training,” said Georgescu.

The new proposal is to have the WalkSafe program run by volunteers,  and Russell says she hopes the change will help make the program more cost effective.

“I think there would be value in investigating this type of program, as it may create some financial efficiencies for students,” Russell said.

Others, however, don’t believe that money is the most important issue at stake, pointing out that commitment to the program remains a key question.

“There wasn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things,” Georgescu explained of the program’s economic situation. “But the point was, even having people there as a job, there weren’t a lot of people to do it, and on average they were walking one to two people a night.”

Currently, students can sign up for the on–campus shuttle service with their WatCard in the SLC and be dropped off at any desired residence. The off-campus shuttle sign up is handled in the same location, next to the SLC multi-purpose room, and also requires a valid WatCard to use. Students are then driven to the intersection nearest to their destination. Signups are on the hour and the shuttle departs at quarter after. 

The research committee is set to make a formal proposal at the end of the Winter 2013 term.

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