Nov 162011
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

Students will soon have a new safe ride home after hitting Old Town in the form of a late night bus route, thanks to the Associated Students of CSU and Fort Collins Police Services.

In an effort to provide additional safe-ride alternatives to students, CSU’s student government announced a new late-night bus route expected to start operating in January 2012. The program was announced during Wednesday’s Senate meeting.

At a cost of $1 per ride, student and community members can use one of two routes, which will service much of west Fort Collins and around Old Town – the areas where many students live and frequent.

The program will operate much like the traditional Transfort system, which runs buses throughout Fort Collins. However, the new route will run from 11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. with bus stops already in place in well-lit areas. Transfort currently has the buses needed for the project, which they acquired months ago.

“Putting a responsible option in front of students, we think, is a phenomenal opportunity,” said Chase Eckerdt, the director of Governmental Affairs for ASCSU. “This is a big deal for our level of commitment and our relationship with the city.”

The bus will cost students $17,000 per semester, beginning in January. The program will be a one year trial.

Fort Collins Police Services will contribute an additional $50,000 to the service, which will facilitate late-night travel around the city and not just from downtown bars, allowing use for everyone in the community.

“I think it’s a neat meshing of interests,” said Interim Police Chief Jerry Schiager, who has been a supporter of the project and worked closely with ASCSU.

Schiager said this program will minimize downtown crowds and take potential drunken drivers off the road. He added that the great thing about the deal is that changes can be made, and if it totally fails, the program can be changed or eliminated after the program gains interest in the spring.

“I think everybody has an interest in traffic safety,” Schiager said. “It gives people a good option for a couple beers and a good way to get home. I think it’s just a cool partnership, and it helps us meet a lot of needs and give some people a good service.”

Currently, RamRide and other cab operations patrol the downtown area, but ASCSU officials said these services have been overwhelmed by increased use and success.

“I think we very likely will have the largest and most comprehensive safe-ride program in the country,” Eckerdt said. “I think that’s a pretty impressive feat.”

Currently, the University of Colorado Boulder operates a similar program in various stages that facilitates late night travel throughout the community including the mall districts and to campus, also funded by student fees, according to Bryan Flansburg, director of Transportation Services for CU.

Wednesday’s announcement communicated the progress that has been made in the deal, which has been in the talks since last spring. In that time, ASCSU has compiled data from RamRide, and student voice surveys about the needs of late-night patrons and users’ concerns.

More than 600 surveys about the new program have been received in addition to data from last year’s RamRide drop off surveys. About 90 percent of respondents said they would support a late-night bus route, according to ASCSU President Eric Berlinberg.

However, he said that if the program results are not as successful, changes can be made as needed.

Berlinberg added that, as the governing body of CSU students, his administration has emphasized a need to fix some of the problems that come out of Old Town. He added that the bus service offers multiple uses, including shopping and transportation to campus.

“I think it’s important to remember this is a bus service,” Berlinberg said. “It’s not just an Old Town bus.”

The proposal will now go before the Fort Collins City Council, which will hear residents’ input before giving the final go-ahead.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Kurt Ravenschlag, the assistant general manager of Transfort, presented the information to the city’s transportation board, which approved the measure.

Ravenschlag said Transfort has been supportive of the deal from the beginning, recognizing the importance of CSU students as a part of their ridership. He added that Transfort will contract the services to another company, similar to the way in which taxis operate.

Berlinberg emphasized that safety will remain a priority, and that the drivers will be trained in controlling potential unruly behavior. The routes will travel along areas that traditionally have increased police presence.

The final details of routes, times and concerns will be decided in the remaining weeks before the spring 2012 roll-out.

ASCSU is welcoming any feedback or concerns about the program, especially as the weeks of the semester wind down.

“I think it’s something that develops over time and that we have to make changes to just like any service we offer,” Eckerdt said. “I think we’re really looking at a new phase with our relationship with the city. This is a community project, and that’s a great sort of thing from our angle.”

_Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Expected to begin in January

11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

$1 Fares to students

Cost to students: $34,000 through student fees

$50,000 from Fort Collins Police Services

Will cover west Fort Collins and Old Town

4 buses covering 2 routes

Partnership with Transfort

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