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U. of. C Students Look to uPass to Alleviate Commuting Struggles

Administrators at the University of Chicago are discussing bringing the CTA’s uPass to the school. Students have long complained about the lack of a uPass and their inability to readily access the CTA and downtown Chicago.

Hamid Bendaas, a member of the Student Government Association at University of Chicago, said possible implementation of the uPass has been discussed with school leaders. Of the largest universities in Chicago, University of Chicago is the only school that does not offer its students the CTA’s uPass allowing for unlimited bus and train rides on a card that is paid for by nominal fee paid by students as part of their tuition.

“It seems like the administration is committed to making the city more accessible to students,” Bendaas said. “I think the first step is to provide students with the CTA’s uPass and then work on expanding their ability to use the uPass, either with a new CTA bus route or shuttle service. I think we’ll make progress soon.”

Plans are also in the early stages to adjust and possibly expand the school’s on campus shuttle service. Some students think the idea of a university sponsored shuttle bus to transport students to and from the Garfield Station or even downtown would be welcomed. The university recently expanded its on campus shuttle service but has yet to provide a route with access to CTA rail lines.

“If the school could sponsor a shuttle bus to the CTA that would be nice,” said William Dunkle, a U. of C. sophomore. “We already have on campus shuttle routes so I don’t think it’d be that hard to extend one or institute a new one to the CTA stop or some centrally located downtown location and run it until like three a.m.”

Although the area is well-served by the Chicago Transit Authority and Metra during the day, junior Megan Wu says that once the sun goes down public transit options become scarce.

“Yes we have the CTA and Metra but some buses don’t run late and others you have to pass through iffy neighborhoods,” Wu said. “The Metra costs $6 or $7 round trip which is more expensive than the CTA. I’d rather just stay in.”

[pullquote]The Hyde Park area is served by several CTA bus routes and a Metra Commuter Rail line. Metra’s Electric Line stops at three stations in Hyde Park and ends service with the last train leaving downtown at 12:30 a.m. The Metra fare roundtrip is $6. There is also the CTA #6 bus that ends service at 1 a.m. But other than that, late night options are scarce for students and residents to avoid a hefty cab fare back to the Hyde Park from downtown. Several east-west bus routes that feed residents to the CTA’s Red Line which runs 24 hours, but several of those do not offer late night service and pass through high crime areas. Security at the train stations is a concern as well.[/pullquote]

“You can take the No. 4 bus late, but it makes a lot of stops and runs through some sketchy neighborhoods and stops on the fast west end of campus,” Wu said. “I’d take the Red Line but I hear it’s unsafe and have had friends mugged at the Garfield Station. It’s happened enough where I don’t want to go near the place.”

In the overnight hours the Red Line runs every 15 to 20 minutes. The #55 Garfield bus provides limited overnight service that runs every half hour. Senior Jenna Rozelle says the bus schedule isn’t reliable and you can be stuck waiting for upwards of an hour.

“I’ve waited way too long for a bus at the Garfield Station before and have felt very uncomfortable,” Rozelle said. “This happens at all hours of the day too, not just late at night. The area west of campus is dangerous and I think most people would rather avoid it altogether then try to venture through it to get to the Red Line to go downtown.”

According to Chicago Police crime data, there have been 137 violent crimes at or within a half mile of the Garfield Red Line station in the past five years, making it one of the most dangerous stations on the CTA’s rail system.

“Really late at night the only option is to take a cab or uber or something from downtown and that can be twenty to thirty dollars that I don’t want to spend when if there was a decent CTA route it would only be $2.25,” Rozelle said. “A school shuttle to the red line wouldn’t be a bad idea either.”


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