February 18, 2009
By Greta Myers
A more visible, revamped bus route around UIS was discussed at the Feb. 8 meeting of the Student Government Association. The SGA wants to adjust the bus route to match the shift in concentration of the student population living at UIS. However, the group first needs to consult with those who would be affected by the change; namely, city bus riders who live in Sunflower Court or work on the eastside of campus.
UIS Junior Steven Black presented a map with the proposed changes for the first reading of the Resolution during the meeting. Black’s new route was influenced, in part, by a tour he took of the public transportation systems in Champaign, St. Louis and Madison, Wis. during the summer of 2008. After spending hours riding on the three cities’ day passes, Black noticed a common thread.
“They are all very simple. Just get from point A to point B,” he said.
Black, a Global Studies student who hopes to study Urban and Regional Planning on a post-graduate level, said his interest in transportation issues was years in the making. While working at the café in the Lincoln Residence Hall, Black informally polled students about public transportation at UIS.
“The responses I got were like, ‘What? We have a bus?’” He said, “It dawned on me. Students don’t know we had a bus, because it’s not going where the students are.”
Ashley Rook, President of the SGA, agrees.
“Right now it is very unbalanced,” she said, “The problem is the bus stop is in places where people don’t usually go. A lot of students don’t use it because it’s not visible.”
Currently, the city bus stops at the “teardrop” entrance of the Public Affairs Center, in front of the Student Life gym and in front of the family housing unit of Sunflower Court. The current route was set during the mid ‘70s and the west side of campus was basically non-existent. Black said that changes in public transportation at UIS have been slow, due in part, because changes have been initiated by students who are only on campus a few years.
“By the time it gets moving, the students leave,” he said.
This proposed route change will include stops at the sidewalk between the Recreation and Athletic Center (TRAC) and the University Hall Building and between Founders Hall and townhouse courts on Eliza Farnham Drive. Though a definite date has not been set, the new route is hoped to be in effect by the time students return from Spring Break and new bus schedules will be distributed throughout campus.
Students will be made aware of the proposed changes via email, by attending SGA meetings, or reading the newly created SGA blog. The blog was created to help gauge the reactions of the UIS student body by providing an outlet for feedback. A link to the SGA’s blog is on the UIS homepage.
In addition to the environmental benefits of expanding mass transportation services to UIS, Rook believes the added accessibility will attract more first year students, many of whom do not own cars. She said it would also help alleviate overcrowding in designated visitor parking areas which has led to tickets due to fewer parking options. The current budget crisis within the University of Illinois would not have an effect on the bus route changes, which is a redistribution, not an expansion, of services.
“If anything, it will help the students,” Rook said, “They will be able to save on gas and get around easier.”
Though it is not known exactly how many students take the city bus, Black said that the route 11 bus has one of the higher riderships in Springfield. This bus takes students to Stop F at the downtown bus terminal. From there, they may use their free transfer ticket to board another bus to their chosen destination. Bus tickets are one dollar.
However both UIS and Lincoln Land Community College students may ride free between both campuses.
Currently, the city bus arrives at 30 minute intervals at UIS, Monday through Saturday. The first bus arrives at 6:37 a.m. and the final pick-up is at 6:05 p.m. The SMTD does not provide night service at UIS.
After the evening bus service first began in December 2007, Black inquired to the SMTD board as to why UIS was left out. “They said SMTD’s goal of night service was for job access, not education access,” he said. Black hopes that eventually UIS will follow the example of campuses such as the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and help pay for student mass transit with an addition to student fees.
Cynthia Thompson, Director of the Office of Student Life said it is important to the university to have a night bus to campus.
“It’s a big job to get the city to see UIS as a critical mass,” Thompson said, “There’s potential for people to come to UIS, expanded bus routes might bring people out here.”
For current students, a free Student Life Shuttle is available Monday through Friday and makes three trips a night. The shuttle departs from the PAC “teardrop” entrance at 7:50, 8:50 and 9:50 p.m. and takes students to the Capital City Shopping Center, at Stevenson Drive and Dirksen Parkway. There, students may continue riding the bus to the point of night transfer which is located on the north side of the state capitol. The Capitol City Shopping Center was chosen because it is the closest SMTD night pick-up to UIS. The shuttle serves roughly 10 students per week and is paid for by student fees.