BioBus proposal prompts discussion

by Marlena Chertock, November 3, 2009

As senior Dan Miller promised in his Facebook group “Late Night BIOBUS,” he has written a proposal and met with members of the administration to talk about possibly extending the time the BioBus would run into the night.

So far, more than 1,000 Elon students have joined the group, which aims to improve student life and safety through nightly BioBus transportation.

“Essentially, 1,000-plus students supported this idea without any means of advertising other than word-of-mouth,” Miller said. “That is nearly 20 percent of the student body of Elon.”

He said this is proof a late night BioBus “will be used to its full potential.”

“Last year, SafeRides had 12,139 requests for transport. Only 64 percent (7,844) of callers were actually transported,” Miller’s proposal said. “The remaining 35.38 percent chose not to pursue that destination, or decided to walk or drive themselves to where they needed to go. One must also take into consideration those who chose not to even call SafeRides because they knew the wait was too long.”

Miller said he believes the solution would be to run the BioBus from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., in addition to SafeRides and E-rides. He is suggesting a one-month trial period of the BioBuses at night.

Senior Kimberly Duggins, director of SafeRides, said she hopes instead of competing with a possible late-night BioBus, the programs could work together to help solve the issue of drunk driving on campus and to help keep the community safe.

She said she doesn’t see the implementation of a late night Biobus having any negative effects on SafeRides.

“We will still be here for students when they need a ride home, and that’s not going to change,” she said.

Miller said the goal of the Late Night BioBus is simply to support SafeRides and E-rides by providing more service to more students.

But there are some challenges that might come with running the BioBuses at night. Miller said potential issues could be bus cleanliness, drinking on the bus, transporting intoxicated underage students and funding.

He has tried to address these issues by coming up with potential solutions, such as having trashcans on the bus, forming a cleanup crew to work after 2:30 a.m. and prohibiting open containers on the bus.

He also suggested charging students $1 to ride the bus so a profit can be made.

But, these proposed suggestions have not yet been decided upon.

Last week, Miller had a meeting with key Elon figures such as Smith Jackson, vice president and dean of student life, Keith Dimont, director of automotive services, Justin Peterson, Student Government Association president, Duggins and others to discuss the proposal’s feasibility.

“We had one meeting, but a really good meeting,” Jackson said. “(Miller) made his presentation. No decisions were made. This was more of a listening, framing the question (meeting).”

Jackson said the administration would continue to look at the issue of student safety after 7 p.m., when the BioBuses stop running.

“We didn’t make any firm decisions,” Jackson said. “We might do some of (the proposal) or we might not. There are no clear timelines.”

Extensive planning, discussion and logistics need ironed out before they can try even a test-run of the system, he said.

“I think it’s a logical plan that the university should consider if one of its priorities is the safety of its students,” Duggins said. “However, I’m not sure that we’ll see the BioBus late at night just yet. There are numerous obstacles that must be overcome before a proposal like this takes place.”

She said Miller raised an important issue about the university needing to do more to provide transportation either through a BioBus or by further supporting SafeRides.

Jackson said he wasn’t aware SafeRides did not have enough manpower or efficiency to transport all of the students who call in.

“We have a (new) 15-passenger vehicle right now, with six wheels,” Jackson said.

He said volunteers would need to go through training to drive bigger vehicles if they will be used. Currently, SafeRide’s only performs a license check.

Jackson said he may confer with the SGA to turn over more student opinion on the issue.

“Peterson said he thinks SGA would want to help with this,” Jackson said. “I suggested we do a student referendum.”

Jackson said it’s up to students to decide how they want to spend their SGA money and fund such an effort.