Student drivers employed by the Bengal Bus will soon replace Campus Safety officers as the primary provider of free transportation to areas around campus. The policy shift enables Campus Safety officers currently dedicated to performing escorts to other tasks more relevant to crime deterrence.
Representatives from the Bengal Bus free shuttle service, which is overseen by the Office of Student Life, are currently holding talks with Campus Safety with the goal of simplifying and improving the escort service. The move comes as a response to staffing problems and a recent increase in crime in the area around campus.
Undeclared Bengal Bus manager Kyle Oye (sophomore) and Chief of Campus Safety Sean Kennedy are working out the details of the reform. Current reform plans incorporate some of Campus Safety’s escort duties into the Bengal Bus program. The goal is to create a better escort service for students and in the process allow Campus Safety personnel to better perform its regular duties.
“We need their help. We’re looking at staffing issues,” Kennedy said.“[With help from the Bengal Bus] we can concentrate on being proactive in our patrols to prevent crimes on campus and be in more places over a wider time span.”
Campus Safety recently donated a van to the Bengal Bus as a pledge to improve the Bengal Bus service and reduce the time students regularly spend waiting to be picked up. To cover the cost of new drivers, Campus Safety is also transferring a portion of its student worker budget to the shuttle service.
“[The Bengal Bus] can do it much better. It will be more streamlined and efficient. It will allow us to better fill our role as Campus Safety,” Kennedy said. “We cannot respond to a suspicious person or a break-in when we are performing an escort.”
The change in the escort system will create an overlap between the college’s two transportation services which have previously operated as distinct entities. In the past, handicapped students and those who feel unsafe walking alone could arrange transport to an academic building or residence within one mile of campus by calling the primary Campus Safety phone number.
According to the Campus Safety website, “the safety escort program has been developed as an alternative to walking alone after dark.”
The Bengal Bus currently runs at different times throughout the week. Depending on the day, the Bengal Bus operates as either a taxi service delivering groups of students to desired locations within 10 miles of the college, a scheduled shuttle service to the airport or the host of weekly “wildcard” trips. On Wednesdays and Sunday afternoons, the service does not run at all.
Under the new system, the Bengal Bus will take over responsibility from Campus Safety for escorts during peak hours and in the evening. A new dedicated phone number will be established for escorts, which will forward calls to the appropriate driver, depending on the time of day. In addition to the new responsibilities, the Bengal Bus will continue to provide the same services it has in the past.
Before agreeing upon a final schedule, the parties involved are looking into best practices for the service. During a trial period, the Bengal Bus is keeping track of the number of escort requests received over certain time periods in order to determine when Campus Safety needs the most support.
“We are tracking ridership throughout the week to determine when we need more drivers,” Oye said. “[Kennedy] is keeping track of those who will have regularly scheduled transport needs.”
With the trial period underway, Campus Safety and Bengal Bus plan to release a final schedule before the end of the February.