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Low ridership puts UI Nite Ride on hold

BY JULIANA FABIANO | JUNE 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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Women are brainstorming alternative transportation after university officials decided to put Nite Ride on hiatus for the summer.

The University of Iowa’s Nite Ride, a free van service used to bus women to their residences between the hours of 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., was suspended as of Tuesday. The hiatus will continue until Aug. 15.

Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, said in a university-wide e-mail that the change was caused by a significant drop in Nite Ride passengers — down to an average of approximately five passengers per night in recent weeks. Suspending the service will allow the university to save fuel and labor costs, Green said.

But some students say the Nite Ride, first implemented in 2007, is worth keeping full-time, even with decreasing ridership.

UI sophomore Audrey Smith, a former The Daily Iowan employee, said she relied heavily on this transportation for a safe way home. She is taking action with a new Facebook group, “Save Nite Ride,” which specifically addresses concerns for the safety of women.

“I think it’s important for any college campus to have a safe alternative for transportation that is affordable,” Smith said. “Taxis are an option, but unfortunately, not everyone can afford one.”

Green said he’s received nine e-mails since June 3, when he sent out a mass e-mail detailing the suspension.

“Two identified themselves as students and objected to the temporary suspension, expressing their desire to keep Nite Ride going during the summer,” Green told The Daily Iowan in an e-mail this week. “One simply thanked me for sending out the e-mail.”

He said he had nothing further to add to the issue.

The UI announcement encouraged students to “continue safe practices such as traveling in groups.”

But Smith, who previously lived in Mayflower Residence Hall, said some students do not have the option of using the buddy system, especially in far-away locations such as Mayflower.

UI sophomore Nick Rolston, who will call Iowa City home this summer, is rallying behind Smith’s Facebook group. Rolston expressed particular concern for the female community after Evan M. Pfeifer, 18, Lake Barrington, Ill., was accused of raping a student on the Pentacrest in October 2010.

Rolston said the incident affected him significantly, because he had been a classmate of Pfeifer’s.

“It really hit home,” he said. “It just makes you realize how staying safe at night is a huge priority for women and really for anyone.”

Karla Miller, the executive director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, regularly encourages women to be responsible and stay safe.

“It can be justified ridership has gone way down in recent weeks and to fund [Nite Ride] would be impractical,” Miller said. “But I also understand women need that option to have a safe ride home.”

UI Student Government President Elliot Higgins said he knew of no plans for an alternative to Nite Ride, but he is open to exploring options.


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