Students Keeping Students Safe
By: Wiley Schatz
Since the current executive branch of the University of Iowa Student Government (UISG) has been in place, they have been extremely busy putting plans in place in order to improve student life. In particular they have made efforts in keeping the IMU open for 24 hours, increasing student awareness of Student Government activities, and improving “Welcome Week” for incoming freshman. One of the primary issues for UISG has been improving general safety awareness among students. Among the ways that Student Government is improving student safety is by working with Cambus to create a new bus route that will go to the eastside of downtown.
“With the 21 ordinance here,” says President of University of Iowa Student Government John Rigby, “there are a lot of students on the weekend walking downtown from neighborhood to neighborhood just looking for something to do. We think that a new route on the eastside could be useful to some of them and keep them safe.”
If the plans for a new route do happen, it wouldn’t be the first time that Cambus provided a route of that kind.
“There was an eastside loop that got started last year,” says Vice President of University of Iowa Student Government Erica Hayes, “the intention of that route was to go to sorority houses and apartment buildings. I think what will be happening in the near future is an adaptation of that route that will fill the needs of some students.”
The main reason why last year’s route didn’t last, was because the economics just didn’t add up.
“It definitely wasn’t cost effective for us,” says Rigby, “It cost us about $14,000 and through the whole year only about 350 people actually used it. But with the 21 ordinance maybe it will be more useful to people.”
Not So Fast?
According to officials at Cambus though, a new eastside route may not be likely in the near future.
“It just doesn’t seem necessary for anyone involved at this point,” says Cambus Manager McClatchey, ”There isn’t much demand from students, if we had significant use of our old late-night eastside route, we might be more open to what Student Government has been proposing.”
The ethics of having a bus running downtown on weekend nights is also something Cambus finds questionable.
“The route originally served more than just the neighborhoods,” says McClatchey, “it wasn’t just a ‘drunk bus’, which is what this route would essentially be. It was for safety for students going from to and from campus; I am not sure it’s appropriate for Cambus to get involved in that”
Maybe the biggest reason of all that that there are no plans for a new eastern neighborhoods route is that it just doesn’t fit with why they would need a new route.
“Considering we use to have a similar route to what they want now and nobody has asked us about it since we canceled it, we don’t feel there is a strong need for a new route,” Says McClatchey, “a bus just doesn’t make a lot of sense for that situation where people are more scattered and aren’t necessarily in large groups. We’ve told Student Government that a new cab service might make more sense for people that just want to go travel in small packs and go downtown.”
While Cambus might not be jumping at the idea of a new downtown route on weekends, that doesn’t mean they aren’t working on new ways to help students and keep them safe. Recently all Iowa City bus services launched a new service called “Bus on the Go” or “BONGO.”
“Essentially what it is is a real time passenger information system,” says McClatchey, “The I.T. department had a poll about what students would like them to work on and the number one answer was that people want bus information.”
With BONGO, students can use their smart phone and locate where all the busses currently are and how long it will take them to get to whichever stop they want. This way students no longer have to wait at a given stop and hope that the bus will be on time and in turn plan their day much more easily.
“We have been working on BONGO for the last six moths,” says McClatchey, “its something that not only helps the riders, but also help us here in the office. Before when our dispatchers needed to know where a bust was in order keep things on track they would have to radio in and visualize in their head the positions of all the busses in relation to each other, now they can just see exactly where they are. It also gives us information that can help us adjust routes in the future.”
Outside of BONGO Cambus is also giving all busses Wi-Fi, replacing older busses, and extending the time they go to Coralville.
Other Plans in the Works
Though east side apartments may not be getting any visits from Cambus anytime soon, Student Government is still working on other ways to keep students safe“Something else that could contribute to greater student safety.
“One of the things were are working on is something called a ‘community walk’,” says Rigby, “it would involved everyone in Student Government and maybe a few volunteer students to walk around the east side on a Thursday or Friday night and look for potential hazards such as a street lamp being out. Things that the city council might not give much attention. We could point these things out to them and hopefully get them fixed faster.”
Student safety is a priority to the Student Government at The University of Iowa, after all they are students themselves. Students will know next semester weather their plans have gone into place.