New Saturday night bus helps students

Story by Haley Zblewski

Last Saturday night, Brieanna Igl, Rachel Mueller and Sarah Janda were hoping to get to Fazoli’s. However, the three UW-Eau Claire freshmen don’t have a car
on campus.

 

When the women heard there was a new bus that would take students to places off campus late into the night, Igl said the girls jumped at the opportunity to grab some food.

 

The Saturday Night Shuttle is in its pilot program this semester at Eau Claire. The shuttle runs from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. and is free to Eau Claire students and their guests

 

“I read that the other bus stops at six,” Janda said. “So it’s nice to have a way to get around after that.”

 

Students like Igl, Janda and Mueller are the reason why the Saturday Night Shuttle was created, according to Jennifer Lee, director of UW-Eau Claire’s Center for Alcohol Studies and Education.

 

“No one can be academically focused 24/7 and have a balanced life,” Lee said. “We want them to go out and have fun and see the city of Eau Claire, and they’re telling us they want to see it.”

 

The idea for the program was brought forth by the environmental subgroup of the Alcohol Safety Team, designated by the chancellor, as a way to give students something to do on weekends,
Lee said.

 

“There isn’t the capacity on campus to serve all of our students,” Lee said. “Even if we had the most exciting program that everybody wanted to go to, our biggest venue on campus (holds) 3,000 people. And we are asking our students not to bring their vehicles, so that limits their off-campus adventures to things within
walking distance.”

 

The start of the Saturday Night Shuttle was funded by a grant from the Department of Transportation, Lee said. Because the grant only goes through Sept. 30, Lee said she went to Student Senate to seek
further funding.

 

The program was approved by the Student Services Commission and the pilot program will now continue throughout the fall semester funded by student segregated fees.

 

On its first night out, the Saturday Night Shuttle gave more than 600 rides, and the next Saturday, the number of rides reached more than 750, Lee said.

 

The shuttle, a City of Eau Claire school bus, picks students up at Towers Hall, and carries them around the city, making stops at places like Action City, Oakwood
Mall and Target.

 

Matt Winarski, a senior music education and sociology major, has been helping out with the Saturday Night Shuttle.

 

Winarski rides along on the bus as a sort of tour guide, running a Cash-Cab style trivia game where participants can win prizes, as well as announcing what businesses are in the area at each stop.

 

“‘I don’t know the area,’ ‘I don’t know what there is to do;’ Those are the big questions that come up,” Winarski said. “That’s the point of this program. To get people —especially freshmen — to know the area and know what’s available to them for places to eat, places to have fun.”

 

Giving students a chance to do things around the city, after the Eau Claire Transit buses stop running on Saturdays, was the reason why Winarski wanted to get involved in the pilot program, and he said he hopes to see the program continue.

 

“Now that it’s becoming known, people are getting on at more stops than just Towers,” Winarski said. “This last time around we picked up like five people at Walmart on the first trip. So obviously they got there some other way, and we picked them up.
That’s great.”

 

Alcohol is not allowed on the shuttle, something that Winarski said he thought was a good idea.

 

“We are not a drunk bus,” Winarski said. “It’s an alternative. It’s an alternative to drinking on campus. It’s a way to get out into the community and do other things.”

 

That’s an aspect of the Saturday Night Shuttle that’s there but isn’t all it is,
Lee added.

 

“We hesitated to call this an alternative option (to drinking alcohol),” Lee said. “We don’t classify our students into drinkers and nondrinkers. I think in any given weekend there are students who this appeals to, whether on a different night something else appeals to them. This appeals to a lot of people who don’t have access to car who want to blow off some steam off of campus.”

 

And freshmen Emily Goldnick and Brynn Schaal, who have ridden the Saturday Night Shuttle twice, said they think the program is working well so far, and it’s very convenient.

 

“It’s an easy way to get around Eau Claire at night,” Goldnick said. “You can get anywhere you need to go.”

 

If you have questions about the Saturday Night Shuttle, email [email protected]

 

Click here for the shuttle schedule