Student Senate ends Saturday Night Shuttle

Story by Breann Schossow

Sophomore RA Brady Krien thought the Saturday Night Shuttle was a great chance for on-campus students without access to cars to go off-campus and an alternative to potential irresponsible activities. He even used it for a wing event.

“It seemed like a great program,” he said.

But, the shuttle is no more at present.

“I was disappointed,” Krien said. “It allows us, as RAs, to be able to have programs that are off-campus without … walking a couple of miles. It works out well for a lot of people.”

A special allocation for a second-semester run of the Saturday Night Shuttle was voted down by Student Senate Monday, ending a pilot program created to answer the needs of students because of fiscal concerns, among other reasons, sources say.

“I’m very sad,” said Jennifer Lee, director of the Center for Alcohol Studies and Education, about the 17 to 9 vote. “I just feel like it was a great service to students. Students were taking advantage of it.”

Student body President Phil Rynish, who abstained in the allocation vote, cited fiscal responsibility as one of the reasons that many senators decided not to allocate funds to the program. Last semester’s allocation was more than $5,000, according to Student Senate legislation.

“They weren’t running it as it was sold to us,” Rynish said, specifically about the trivia program which was pitched as a “Cash Cab” experience. While on the shuttle, riders had the opportunity to win prizes donated by local businesses while playing trivia, but Rynish said the trivia wasn’t being run as
was proposed.

An amendment during the debate also cut the positions of the two paid shuttle workers before the allocation was ultimately shut down.

Stephanie Mabrey, director of Student Service Commission, said she felt the amendment that removed workers from the program changed the way supporters looked at it.

“A lot of senators who really loved the program initially felt after the two riders were taken off the bus, that it was no longer something we should be spending money on because it wasn’t holding with the original intent of the program.”

Rynish also cited depleted funds in the carryover balance as another reason behind the vote. The balance, which is at about $200,000 now, is down from about $900,000 four years ago. Funds are taken from the carryover balance to pay for special allocations and past examples include the allocation for Hobbs Ice Arena and Schofield Auditorium’s renovation. The carryover is dwindling, Rynish said, and that sentiment added to the thoughts of some senators that voted against the allocation.

“If we continue to fund every special allocation that comes through, eventually student fees are going to start to go up … (Segregated) fees need to cover these special allocations and without the carryover, that’s what’s going to happen,” he said.

Rynish said that allocations tend to be for one-time only deals usually. However, he said, if CASE could find a way to fund the program itself, Senate would not have a problem with it.

Mabrey described the shuttle program “as a great alternative for students not wishing to drink on the weekends to get over to the mall and downtown and have things to do”.

“So far, I think it’s had tremendous success this semester with its ridership,” Mabrey said

Saturday Night Shuttle began Sept. 3 as a pilot project funded by the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate and a Department of Transportation grant, which, Lee said, covered the first four weeks of the shuttle’s run. The shuttle provided free transportation to area businesses and ran from 6 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday. A similar program has recently started at UW-Stout, Lee said.

According to a Sept. 2 news release, discussions by Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich’s Alcohol Safety Team led to the concept of a shuttle program. Lee also cited the campus’ desire for sustainability as a reason behind the shuttle.

During the first twelve weeks, Lee said, the shuttle averaged 209 rides per week, with about 2,500 rides over the course of that time period.

“I think people were still discovering other ways that it could be used,” Lee said.

At least one problems exists because of the end of the program. Lee said some shuttle riders used it as after-work transportation, which Rynish said Senate was aware of as it received feedback after the vote from a student that used the bus after work on Saturdays.

“I think that is a legitimate concern,” he said.

There may also have been an unintended problem, especially as there was only one cold weekend during the semester. During that weekend’s run, Lee said, there was standing-room only on the shuttle.

“I don’t think we ever really realized the full potential of people we could be serving,” she said.

Mabrey said that she would love to see the program continue, even if it is just a bus.

“I think we are lacking transit, especially on the weekends.”

Mabrey also said that they are looking for alternate funding and Lee has found some of the money needed.

“Unfortunately, given the state of the state budget right now, we’re experiencing all the cuts,” she said. “Money is really available anywhere on campus. We’re doing our best.”