In response to student demand, Northwestern will test a pilot Saturday shuttle service, Associated Student Government officials announced Wednesday.
“Funding has been reserved for the proposed Saturday Intercampus Shuttle program, pending successful evaluation of a pilot program,” Provost Daniel Linzer and Senior Vice President for Finance Eugene Sunshine said in an April 21 letter to outgoing ASG President Jon Webber, among others.
The university will likely test the service during Fall Quarter to gauge student interest and involvement, said Kate Pascale, the outgoing external relations director who helped write the funding proposal.
The letter was in response to seven proposals made by the Undergraduate Budget Proposal Committee in late February.
The letter did not say whether the service will cost students anything. As of Wednesday evening, ASG President Neal Sales-Griffin, outgoing president Jonathan Webber, UBPC Chair Jonathan Kent and proposal writers Pascale and Samir Pendse said they were uncertain about a cost to students.
Pendse and Pascale said they advocated for the university to provide enough funding for a free service, but full funding was not guaranteed: That would cost the university about $20,000, they said.
The two sent university administrators an informal proposal late Fall Quarter.
Pendse said he thought “it’d be really cool if they ran an intercampus shuttle on Saturday or the weekends that would run late so people would go down, have good time and get in there on the weekend.”
After conceiving the idea, Pendse talked to Marge Grzeszczuk, the manager of support services at University Services in the Chicago campus.
“She said it wouldn’t be that hard, you could just use the same general system that you use during the week, and just pay the same bus company,” Pendse said. “All the logistics were in place, except we needed the funding. Then the funding became the hurdle.”
She brought up the possibility of having stops at Millennium Park or Michigan Avenue. NU student officials said Wednesday that they are unaware exactly where the bus would stop.
Pendse said that the external relations committee was “able to push this idea” through a community-student-relations task force that was created during New Student Week to “stop kids from messing things up off campus.”
“At the beginning of the year, there was just a rash of off-campus problems,” he said. “Northwestern students going to the hospital for drinking, and off-campus residents complaining, and people going to our administration ranting and raving.”
Pascale said the committee proposed the shuttle “to eliminate some of the community issues” by providing an outlet for students to go to museums and other cultural offerings in Chicago.
In a Winter Quarter poll, nearly 99 percent of the 2,500 students who voted said they would use such a service to go to Chicago more, Pendse said. The turnout for the online poll “shattered the previous record for these ASG polls,” Pendse said.
“Everyone says these ASG polls are worthless,” but the administration will listen to students only if there is a “hard poll,” he said.
Jon Kent, the UBPC’s new chair, said the committee was very pleased with the administrators’ decisions.
“This has been probably the most-positive response that we’ve received ever as a committee,” he said.
Kent said this improvement was due to better communication with the administration.
“For once, it’s kind of a good example of lobbying with the administration, and finding a happy medium of being realistic while also getting what students have been asking for,” Kent said.
ASG President Neal Sales-Griffin, who was sworn in tonight, said the administration’s response was “fantastic.”
“It’s big news that we actually have things that are getting done,” he said. “UBPC did a fantastic job this past year, so I’m excited to help them keep that going.”