The Chicago Express shuttle runs from Evanston to Chicago, but the Associated Student Government wants to make sure it’s not going anywhere. After having approved Spring Quarter funding for the Saturday shuttle pilot program earlier this month, ASG’s next move is to make the Chicago Express a permanent presence next year, as well.
The Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee will meet with the university’s planning and budget group this week in hopes of receiving the roughly $25,000 it needs to run the Chicago Express next year, UBPC Chair Jonathan Kent said.
“I think that there’s a very good possibility of the university funding the shuttle; the question [...] is how much money they’re going to allocate,” Kent said. “I anticipate we may run into some challenges there, and may have to come up with alternative ways to fund it, like we did in the spring.”
Kent said one possible adjustment would be to limit the shuttle’s hours, decreasing the total cost to $17,500.
“It should be a service that the university provides at no cost to students,” he said. “We’re hoping that the university will commit to adopting most, if not all, of that cost.”
The Saturday shuttle pilot program, which began Fall Quarter, provides a free mode of transportation from Northwestern’s Evanston campus to Chicago on Saturdays. The shuttle has been popular, and the program, a success, according to ASG External Relations Committee Director Samir Pendse.
“We’ve had really good attendance,” said Weinberg junior Pendse, who helped write the shuttle’s funding proposal last year. “We had one Saturday where we actually had to leave people at the curb because it was too full.”
For Pendse, the Chicago Express does more than provide a means of transportation to the city.
“The shuttle is a safe entertainment option for students –- it’s something good and constructive and visually stimulating for them,” he said.
The university contributed funds for the shuttle to run five hours each Saturday, but ASG decided to have it run two-and-a-half hours longer. Because of this, ASG ultimately ran out of funds for the project, and resorted to using about $3,000 of its $5,000 discretionary fund, financed by the student activities fee, to keep the shuttle running during Spring Quarter.
“I think that it’s important to also stress that this money coming from ASG, from the discretionary fund, that’s coming from students essentially,” Kent said. “So while $3,000 may seem like a small amount, in principle it’s important for people to know about.”
Kent added that the university felt the effects of the economic downturn, and “that’s why students and senators were receptive to covering the cost in the short term.”
However, he said students would most likely not be as receptive in the long run, another reason why ASG is trying to get permanent funding from the university.
“That money [from the discretionary fund] in this case was used for the best purpose possible,” Kent said, “but hopefully in future years that can cover [...] specific programming or student groups.”