Riding to hit the bottle

The implications of nighttime BioBuses

by Marlena Chertock, October 13, 2009

Let’s be honest. On the weekends, many intoxicated students roam the campus, walking or driving to and from various parties. Some walk home alone, putting themselves at risk. Others choose to catch a ride with their friends, thus engaging in drunk driving. Students have opened their inboxes to find  warnings from Vice President and Dean of Student Life Smith Jackson about accidents caused by drinking.

Should Elon come to terms with reality and try to change these habits? Is it the university’s responsibility to ensure party-goers’ safe return home?
Safe Rides and E-Rides were created for this very reason. Both services provide nightly rides to students for free.

But are these services enough? Not according to senior Dan Miller, who has recently created a Facebook group entitled, “Late night BIOBUS!”

Miller is proposing one of three phases, as he called it. He is currently writing up a formal proposal, to be finished once the Facebook group reaches 500 people, along with a petition. As of press time, the group has already reached more than 900 members.

Junior Katie Metts is working toward the same goal by trying to make BioBus routes more beneficial. For example, she proposes adding another stop at the Koury Business Center to the Trollinger route.

Phase 1: Add BioBus service late at night with a few stops. This can help with the safety and convenience of students. Have the buses run 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. This would take the load off of E-Rides and Safe Rides.

Phase 2: Reverse the roles of the BioBus and Safe Rides. Have the BioBus at night and the van and two sedans in the morning, as a call-request sort of setup.

Phase 3: Keep the BioBus during the day, add it at night and get rid of E-Rides and Safe Rides.
Miller feels that Phase 1 has the fewest problems.

“I asked one of the drivers at the peak throughout the day how many students are on the (BioBus). He said seven. The buses can hold 30 to 50 people,” Miller said.

He believes students choose not to ride the BioBuses because the stops are infrequent, are 20 minutes apart and there is no straight-shot back to campus.

“It feels like a waste of time to wait … it’s almost better to walk,” he said.

For the nightly van services “there is a huge demand and not enough supply … usually the wait is between 20 minutes to over an hour,” Miller said.

One of the reasons for this wait is the call-request model the nighttime services provide.

“Students move around a lot, cancel … it takes a lot of manpower versus having one bus,” he said.

Is the issue at stake safety versus reputation?

“There are a lot of intoxicated students walking around the streets at night in low-lit places,” Miller said. “If safety is one of the number one factors, (implementing these plans) would increase safety. It’s very tempting to just drive home. We don’t want to promote that. That’s worse than a bus of drunk people.”

Miller makes a good point, but is it up to Elon to ensure the safety of drunken students? It’s a person’s own responsibility to stay safe. These students would be taking advantage of the university, getting a form of special treatment as a result of the choices they are making.

The rest of the population, and those who choose not to drink, shouldn’t have to suffer because of those who do. The buses would possibly become rowdy and hazardous. This may mean hiring additional security and police staff, which could be costly.

The nightly vans that Safe Rides and E-Rides provide are voluntary. Elon should not be endorsing this sort of behavior, which would be a side effect of using BioBuses at night to transport drunken students wherever they need to go.

What Elon has to keep in mind when making a decision about BioBuses at night or keeping the current system as is, is whether or not it would promote safety or make the school look like a clown. What would benefit the most students is one way to decide. Upholding the school’s alcohol policy is the other.