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Nite Ride gets more space

BY CLAIRE PERLMAN | JULY 23, 2009 7:15 AM

Just a few short months ago, women had to climb over each other to reach their seats in the free Nite Ride van. Add a few too many accidents with bodily fluids, and the UI police purchased a new vehicle.

At first, some students didn’t recognize the van.

“A couple of [passengers] have called and said, ‘When are you going to be here?’ — and we’re right across from them,” said Beau Hartsock, a UI security guard who has driven the Nite Ride van four or five times since the new wheels arrived.

Not everything has changed.

Although the new van sports a classier and roomier interior, its carrying capacity remains the same: 15 people, including the driver and the passenger attendant. And according to officials, male passengers are still barred.

Still, a couple notable features make for a more comfortable ride. The auto resembles airport shuttles, with school-bus-style side doors — controllable from the driver’s seat — replacing the sliding type that had to be dragged open.

There’s one other benefit. The new van has hard floors, again resembling school buses, that can easily be wiped down.

“This vehicle is far easier to clean,” said UI police crime-prevention specialist Brad Allison.

Admittedly, the UI police have had to deal with fewer such incidents. Security Guard Tim Davis said during the summer and other low-traffic times, the vehicle rarely fills up.

In the summer the number of passengers is more in the range of five to 10, although it can be more.

“It’s just during those peak times – Thursday, Friday, Saturday night – when the bars close that we really fill up,” he said.

During peak times, often more than 80 women request a lift from Nite Ride in an evening, Davis said.

Some are looking ahead to expand the service even more. Increased downtown security — especially Nite Ride, was a platform for the current UI Student Government administration.

UISG President Mike Currie said the organization heard reports of the overcrowding and lengthy wait times discouraging some women from using the service.

Currie said the van could potentially cross into a new frontier: perhaps offering the services to males. That depends on whether there is a demand from the male population, he said.

Allison, however, said men are unlikely to set foot on Nite Ride anytime soon, though drivers will wait with any man who approaches the vehicle until a police officer arrives.

Rather, the department is looking into a Cambus alternative for them.

As for increasing the vehicle size, Davis, who has driven the Nite Ride route for more than a year, said drivers would have to obtain a commercial driver’s license if the van capacity were any larger.

DI Managing Editor Bryce Bauer contributed to this story.


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