Editorial: TAPS provides a safe ride home for students off campus

Brandy Coats/HIGHLANDER

The crime alerts from John Freese have become a familiar update in students’ R’mail accounts. The University of California Police Department’s (UCPD) crime alerts have been sent on such a regular basis that it now lacks any factor of surprise. Within the month of May there were at least six reports consisting of five robberies and a sexual assault.

It can only be assumed that these crimes were the only ones that took place in May, although that is not to say there were no unreported crimes as well. The fact that robberies happen on such a regular basis and are life-threatening in some cases is quite alarming, especially in a college town. One student was robbed by two individuals with one holding a handgun demanding the student’s property. Reports on crime have been even more physical. Another student refused to give up her cell phone and the suspect “hit her with a closed fist.”

The sad truth is the area around UCR is not known to be the safest place for students to be out and about at night. This makes it difficult for students to attend class, study at the library, go to club meetings during the night and head back home on foot. Constance Logan, a junior psychology major, stated, “I’ve had those 10 o’clock at night classes that are all the way across campus, and incidents have occurred that made me wish for a safer way home, other than using the simple buddy system.”

For an area of town to transform into a place comfortable enough for students to walk back safely to their own apartments takes time and money. Although revamping this side of town is the ideal, Transportation & Parking Services (TAPS) has taken the current situation at hand and created a way to avoid the crime that students may run into while walking back to their apartments.

TAPS has designed a pilot system named Point-to-Point, a vanpool program that allows students who live off campus within a three-mile radius to arrive at home safely. Will Lipsenthal, a fourth-year psychology major, stated, “I believe it is a good idea in response to the recent attacks near campus. Campus safety should remain a priority for UCR.”

This decision to test out the program is definitely a step forward since the elimination of the trolley transportation on campus. Two years ago UCR had a transportation system that consisted of three trolleys: the Braveheart Loop, Bear Runner and the Trolley Express. The Bear Runner was a nighttime trolley that was actually run by the RTA. Its route took students down Central Avenue all the way down to Aberdeen Drive. According to Interim Director of Transportation and Parking Services Greg Artman, approximately nine students took this trolley at night, which resulted in the decision to use one 10-seat van for the pilot program.

The Point-to-Point program mimics the Bear Runner in its route, time and purpose but actually covers an even greater area. Currently there is only one van that will be used since the program is still in the testing process and will not be expanded until TAPS knows how many students utilize the service. So far, Artman stated that the program is being used often but the final decision will be made after the final summer session.

The trolley system was an attractive attribute to the campus, however, the spike in fees was not as appealing. Although the Point-to-Point system will not replace the wonderful nostalgia of the trolleys it does bring students safety. The red trolleys had a certain charm to campus, but they also cost the school a huge sum of money.

The end of the trolley system had much to do with the $1.2 million required to keep the trolleys here on campus. Artman’s calculations require parking fees to be increased another 21 percent for that “trolley charm” to stay. It was a smart move on the part of TAPS and UCR to end that system and to begin a different one under a reasonable budget.

Thankfully, Fleet Services was able to step up and provide something similar but slightly less charming for UCR with total costs for the summer estimated at $5,000 including  repairs and gas, along with the rental. During the summer the van will also be taking students to campus apartments, which is great since in this last month two of the reports dealt with on-campus apartments such a Stonehaven and Bannockburn.

Point-to-Point has a very accessible van post by the campus bookstore allowing students to be transported right off campus to their destination. Although the time frame, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., is short, Artman said that once TAPS knows how often the shuttle is used after summer, adjustments will be made. However if TAPS wants to expand the usage of the vanpool and really get a grasp on what students think, better advertising needs to be placed. Tiny flyers and the sign locating where the van picks students up are not sufficient enough to highlight this great addition to campus safety.

If advertised effectively, the Point-to-Point program could potentially decrease the amount of robberies and sexual assaults that happen to students when they travel off campus during the night. So instead of walking into a potential crime scene, drive by it instead with the Point-to-Point vanpool. UC Riverside has definitely stepped up its game with protecting students during a time of increasing reports on crime.

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