Getting on board with transportation options


The Undergraduate Student Senate passed a resolution last Tuesday that recommended extending the Campus Cruiser hours of operation. The timing could not be more appropriate, considering the tragedy that took the life of USC Adrianna Bachan just one year ago.

Rita Yeung | Daily Trojan

The freshman from Montecito, Calif., was a victim of a hit-and-run accident that occurred in the early hours of March 29, 2009, as she was crossing Jefferson Boulevard with fellow student Marcus Garfinkle — who survived the accident — on her way home from The Row. As a friend and former sorority sister of Bachan, I cannot help but wonder how different things would be if she and Garfinkle had another way of getting home that night.

Campus Cruiser currently operates from 5 p.m. to 2:45 a.m., seven days a week, and the new resolution proposes the services be extended an hour longer. The Undergraduate Student Government began looking at this issue in the fall when a survey of presidents and vice presidents of student organizations revealed that 87 percent believed that Campus Cruiser services should run later into the night, especially Thursday through Saturday.

Some opponents argue that extending the hours will encourage students to stay out past this time. This point seems to be directed at students who are out partying, however, and doesn’t consider those who are simply at the library past 2 a.m. Further, this is a college campus; it would be naïve to ignore the fact that many students go out at night and consume alcohol, and those are generally the students who need a ride home.

The majority of debate, however, is centering around the treatment and safety of Campus Cruiser employees. The program, now under the management of USC Transportation, is one of the largest student-run, safe ride programs in the country. There are more than 115 employees, 24 Campus Cruiser vehicles, including three hybrids, eight Ford Windstar vans and one van for disabled passengers.

Clearly the Cruiser system is well-functioning and advanced — the problem is that students feel it is their only option, which places an influx of calls and huge burden on student drivers. Extending the hours until 3:45 a.m. is a good idea for students who need the ride, but what about the students giving it?

Is it reasonable to ask some students to drive until 4 a.m. in order to meet the demands of other students who are choosing to stay out that late?

The biggest problem is many students — myself included — are simply oblivious to the other forms of transportation that USC offers. The boundaries of Campus Cruiser are limited. Destinations that are commercial establishments and sporting/special events are prohibited, therefore many students will get dropped off as close to the location as the Cruiser will take them and walk the rest of the way.  This again brings up the question of safety; however, I wonder if this would be the first choice of students if there were other options readily available.

Well, there are.

Not only will Yellow Cab Co. take students anywhere within the city of Los Angeles, but the taxis also accept USCard, which is convenient for those who would prefer to use discretionary funds.

“I cannot believe I just found out that is an option two months before I graduate. I would give anything to have known that four years ago,” said Joe Houston, a senior majoring in sociology, when informed about the ability to use USCard to pay for Yellow Cab Co.

Another option students know little about is the tram system, including a shuttle that leaves The Lab and the 901 Bar & Grill every 30 minutes for L.A. Live on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Plenty of students would use the service to get to L.A. Live and back had they known it was available.

And for students worried about safely getting home after late night study sessions, there are trams that leave from Leavey Library every 15 to 30 minutes, 24 hours a day.

Clearly then, there are other options for students beyond Campus Cruiser — I just don’t think students know or feel safe about using them.

Extending the hours of the Cruiser program isn’t a bad idea if the drivers are willing to do so, but it seems that many are opposed to the resolution. Perhaps USC should focus on advertising the versatility and safety of its tram system as well as the ability to use USCard for Yellow Cab Co. rather than further burdening the Campus Cruiser program with an entire campus’ transportation needs.

One of the biggest complaints of Angelenos is traffic, yet as a whole we are still resistant to utilizing public transportation. USC’s transportation system is a well-

functioning fleet, but students seem wary to hop onboard.

USG should focus on appeasing those fears by promoting every transportation resource so students can utilize what’s available for safe, efficient and reliable services to, from and around campus because no student should ever feel that walking home is their only choice.

Sara Escalante is a senior majoring in political science.

10 replies
  1. Former Cruiser
    Former Cruiser says:

    As a former cruiser, I understand where cruiser comes from.

    People call and lie and say they’ve been waiting for a tram, and really they haven’t because we have trackers for the tram. Things like this put us way behind.

    Just think… It’s Thursday night and there are 5 parties on the row. Literally 50% of those people are freshman from New North and they want a ride… WHAT would happen if all we did was continually go to the row and take them to campus…. that is ALL we would be doing, leaving the ppl who AREN’t Serviced in the tram waiting for 30 minutes.

    What’s a way to fix this?!? Oh wait! There’s a large USC tram that literally picks up from three spots on the row and takes you to campus in ONE stop. Yet, the Greek system seems to think they have the right to a cruiser “because I pay 52,000 for tuition”. Yes Greek system, I’ve heard that about 30 times in my short stint there… no exaggeration.

    And yes. We are student workers. Please stop treating cruisers like they’re your servants.

    On another note… usually if you are nice and ask politely, a tram driver will stop enroute infront of your house.

    Maybe it’s just the way you’re asking.

  2. Hoping to Improve
    Hoping to Improve says:

    Great story as USC Transportation does have many options available to the students for late night transportation. We continue to strive at improving communication with the students. We send emails, we update our website, we have a Facebook page, and we have ads on the Housing monitors in residence halls. We are would love to hear other suggestions on how to reach the students…any thoughts?

    • Another Cruiser
      Another Cruiser says:

      Hi Hoping to Improve,
      You asked, so I answered, haha. I think the email system is a really nice way to keep students updated about transportation options. I also like the Facebook fan page idea, but I didn’t know it existed. Here are some thoughts I’ve had about improving Trojan Transportation:

      1). Perhaps another comprehensive email from Trojan Transportation outlining all student transportation options and how to access them (trams, cruiser, yellow cab, cruiser express, late-night Leavey Library Shuttle, etc.). This would probably be a long email, but useful. It could also outline how to track trams by offering a link straight to the tram tracking website. And instructions about how to check the status of your cruiser call (online tracking, text/phone status checks). And it could direct them to the “survival guide” on the USC transportation website. Transportation could also set up tables at student events on campus such as the student involvement fairs.

      2). There are a few ways I think the Trojan Transportation (http://transnet.usc.edu) website could be improved:
      -Sometimes things aren’t working the way they are scheduled. Sometimes the tram routes are combined because only one tram is working; sometimes there’s no late-night leavey shuttle driver; there’s a traffic closure that affects tram routes or times, etc. If there were a scrolling bar/ticker or something right on the Transportation homepage that is constantly updated about the most current transportation status or news, it would be really helpful and easy for students to access to get the most up to date information. Of course this would require someone who can constantly monitor and quickly update the status of Transportation options.
      -Another improvement to the transportation homepage could be direct hyperlinks to cruiser call tracking and tram tracking. Currently these options are kind of buried in the website and require some searching to find. If there were direct links to these right on the front of the homepage it might make it easier for students to find.

      3.) I know this is a significant cost and tram routes are changed periodically, so I don’t know how feasible this is right now, but scrolling LED boards at each stop that could tell students when the next tram is coming and also be linked to the current news ticker on the website if it were implemented. I know there’s one at the Parking Center, and I think it would be helpful at the other stops. Other cities and Universities have these kind of integrated systems in place for their transportation departments.

      4.) A tram that services the western side of campus. Perhaps only at night–past 10pm when trams C and D start.

      5.) Sometimes the trams are inconsistent, change their routes or don’t necessarily stop at every stop because they have no one on the tram currently going there. But there could be people waiting at those stops. If this were not the case people would have more faith in taking the trams. So, maybe someone needs to address this issue with the tram service/drivers.

      1,2,& 3 deal specifically with improving communication with students. 4 and 5 are suggestions that could improve the system as a whole. Finally, congrats on the success of the LA Live shuttle. I’ve heard great things about it, and used it a couple times. I think students really appreciate and love it.

  3. Student
    Student says:

    Great article Sara. You clearly pointed out the MAJOR problem with USC transportation: awareness of what is available to us. Like Joe says in the article, if he had known about USC Taxi taking discresh sooner, he would have been using it more. I bet a lot of other students feel the same way.

    I’m glad there is finally a writer for the Daily Trojan that actually gets all the facts together and presents them in a clear manner, instead of just blatantly throwing out inaccurate facts from unreliable and unqualified sources.

  4. Cruiser
    Cruiser says:

    Cruisers, I think we’re missing the point here.

    I agree, of course, with what you’ve said. But this article, unlike the others that have come out in recent weeks, isn’t arguing for us to stay open at all. It takes into account our safety and misgivings about the whole debacle. It doesn’t criticize us, or even campus cruiser as a whole.

    The author is someone we should agree with — she’s arguing that students should look to other forms of transportation, rather than rely solely on cruiser.

    So let’s celebrate! Now, at least, we have one reporter who’s listening to us.

    • Another Cruiser
      Another Cruiser says:

      Yeah, I totally agree. I was going to post a disclaimer after my original post, because it sounds like I’m attacking the author, but I’m not trying to. I think she’s spot on with some of it and she’s being honest. I’m just adding some information to the discourse here and I take minor issue with some of her statements. As I said, thank you Sara. It’s a well-aimed article and gets deeper into the reasons people are dissatisfied with Trojan Transportation than the original article did. No student should feel like walking home is their only choice. It’s not.

  5. Another Cruiser
    Another Cruiser says:

    Thanks for following up last week’s article, Sara. Many students do not know about all the options USC offers for their safe transportation around the USC community. For instance, most students don’t know that you can track the trams online at USCtrams.com, or that you can check the status of your call by phone (just listen to the recording next time cruiser calls you when your car arrives), and even track your cruiser online through the Trojan Transportation website. (Go to http://www.transnet.usc.edu, click “USC transit” at the top of the page and then click “Campus Cruiser” on the sidebar). Perhaps the students need to be made aware of these options, but the resources are there, and I suspect some students simply don’t bother to check (you could easily even just spend 5 minutes starting by Googling ‘USC transportation’, and find all your information that way).

    As Cruiser put it, what bogs down the system and makes everything slower is when someone calls to request a ride that is already serviced by another form of Trojan Transportation. When we get a “(grunt), (whine), (long exhale) silence, and then a “Where can I walk to so that I can get a cruiser” (merely asking this question tells us the motivation for your complaint is not a concern for safety but lack of convenience). Or a “Please give me a cruiser,” it keeps the phone lines busy, and shows that the student is unaware of the purpose of Campus Cruiser. We are happy to explain why Cruiser won’t service you if there is a lack of understanding, but complaining makes everything slower for everyone. The policy is clear-cut.

    Some students either truthfully don’t know or just ignore the purpose of Campus Cruiser. It is a safety service. Not a taxi. Too often calls are put into the system for groups of 6, 8 or (many) more students. At these large group numbers, a reasonable person would consider it safe to travel by foot. And all too often, students want to be taken to restaurants (La Barca, Panda, etc.) or other commercial locations. Again, this is not what Campus Cruiser is for. The reason the service does not operate to commercial locations is because these trips are not considered necessary or vital to the personal safety of the student. Unfortunately, people take advantage of the system, and that’s why it gets so busy.

    As Sara stated, USC continues tram service 24 hours a day. And on some nights Campus Cruiser operates from Leavey Library to all other residential locations within boundaries not on tram routes until 7am (The reason it’s not offered every day is that it’s hard to get students to work this shift, so imagine how difficult it would be to staff Cruiser after 3 am on a regular basis). For students who are out late studying (It happens to all of us), these options are available.

    And, as a student, I have a couple more concerns.
    I don’t get another part of this issue. Students seem to be holding USC and DPS responsible for their safety 24/7 even if they are off of university grounds and acting without reasonable regard for their own safety. USC Transportation and DPS offer great protection to the students. Most of us are adults, and should be able to make our own good decisions. I’ll admit that I don’t always make the safest and most sound decisions, but I’m not going to blame USC for anything that happens to me because of that. I feel like the University is being used as a scapegoat for unwise decisions that students make as adults. If you want to do adult things like staying out past 3am for whatever reason, I don’t think it’s wrong to expect you to make responsible adult decisions.

    As your article applies to late night party people: Sara, I don’t think the university is naive to the point that they believe underage students don’t drink. That’s why they send DPS to monitor the parties and allow us to have a good time while keeping us safe. They know that underage drinking occurs in some (probably all) of those parties, and they could book all the underage students for drinking and of-age students for supplying. But they don’t. DPS and the university are using the “boys will be boys” mindset, and they certainly don’t have the obligation to do that. As students we should be grateful they offer even that discretion, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask the university to condone being out past the hour of 3am off of campus and not studying.

    After all that, I’m not arguing that Trojan Transportation and the Campus Cruiser services are perfect. I would also like to echo the call for some sort of tram service to extend west of campus. These students live just as far away from campus as those who live north of campus and could be offered the same safe option. There are better, and I suspect, cheaper ways to improve the great service Transportation offers without extending Campus Cruiser hours and student work hours.

    Finally, it means a great deal to Cruisers and probably DPS officers if you give even just a little thank you for what they do.

  6. Cruiser
    Cruiser says:

    Yo, Sara. Let me poke a few holes in your criticisms:

    1. “This point seems to be directed at students who are out partying, however, and doesn’t consider those who are simply at the library past 2 a.m.”

    Unbeknownst to you (and I’m not blaming you for missing it, but just pointing it out) a good 90% of those students who are at the library in the earlier hours of the morning aren’t our concern in this whole debate. Why? They take the trams! They are well-educated in our policies because many of them take cruiser a lot and do not fight us when they know they have to or can use the tram. The students who are at the library past 2:45am —- well, they take the tram, too. I find that the students who live in non-trammable areas (ie: west of campus) leave the library before cruiser closes. I commend these students for their responsibility and respect for cruisers. They know our hours, they know our policies and they rarely fight us.

    2. “I cannot help but wonder how different things would be if she and Garfinkle had another way of getting home that night.”

    This is a very sad, story, but they had plenty of ways to get home. She was a freshman and could have taken tram B back to the dorms from the row. They could have gotten her a taxi. Someone sober with a car could have given her a quick ride. If she did have another way of getting home, it probably would have happened to someone else because those monsters were still driving on the street that night. Don’t blame cruiser for your friend’s death. It could have well been another one of our peers; it unfortunately had to be her.

    3. “this is a college campus; it would be naïve to ignore the fact that many students go out at night and consume alcohol, and those are generally the students who need a ride home.”

    These are the students we are talking about when we get angry over this issue. Not the library kids, the people working on group projects looking to get home, the commuters wanting a ride to their parked vehicle west of campus. All the different kinds of cruiser users I just mentioned know about our policies and our hours — as well as the alternate transportation services. You know who fights us about taking the tram or our wait times or every rule we have? The partyers. The girls traveling in hordes who demand we take them to the 9-0 and report us to our supervisors if we don’t. The people unable to control their liquor who vomit all over our car, causing us to have to clean them. The belligerent frat guys who yell and scream and taunt our female drivers when we are having a busy night and our cars are running a bit behind.

    The packs of drunks wanting to get from one end of 29th St to the other. These are NOT the students we should concentrate on servicing and extending the hours would be condoning their rude, boorish and irresponsible behavior. If 90% of our rides were given to those cruiser users who don’t abuse the system — the studiers, the polite students, the ones who know where we can and can’t go and don’t yell when we suggest they take a tram instead — maybe more of us wouldn’t be so upset about this resolution. I feel a big part of Cruiser’s anger comes from the fact that we know we wouldn’t be taking nice people home, but that we’d be taking more brash and inconsiderate Row Heathens.

    4. “I just don’t think students know or feel safe about using them.”

    True story. Happens all the time. Girl A calls for a ride, she’s on a tram route. She’ll tell the phone person she “Doesn’t feel safe” taking the tram at 10pm vs taking a Cruiser at 10pm. WHY!? USC needs to educate it’s students — mainly the Greek population — on the alternate transportation services and show them they are just as safe. Why is getting in a car with a stranger student driver and maybe 1, 2 or even 5 other students you don’t know any safer than taking a USC SANCTIONED AND OPERATED BUS with a driver and 1, 2, 5 or even 10 students you don’t know? I’d even say the trams are safer; bigger groups = safety. USC Transportation is SAFE and (generally reliable.)

    Instead of putting more money into keeping us open late, how about USC uses money on a nice ad campaign to educate students on the trams. New North kids would benefit from this, too.

    And we need a West of Campus tram. USC ARE YOU LISTENING!?

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