A recently-launched student petition advocates expanding of the B.L.U.E. late-night shuttle service to help students avoid walking home alone at night after the recent spate of reported sexual assaults on campus. While this proposal looks good on paper, funds could be better allocated. There are numerous other approaches with much greater potential to create a safer campus in the long term.
The B.L.U.E. shuttle has been operated during study period and finals weeks for the last two semesters as a way to supplement the late night bus routes on campus that run on the hour. The petition, which as of Tuesday had 543 signatures, calls for making the service run every day during the academic year. Additionally, while the service has used one van when it has been in operation previously, the petition proposes using five. The amount of money it would take to operate five vans every night of the academic year would be staggering.
According to the statistics cited in the petition, from May 7 to 12, 212 students rode the B.L.U.E. van service. That number averages to about 35 students per night. This statistic might justify operating one van during study week when a large number of Cornell students visit the libraries, but it does not seem to make sense for every night of the year. It makes even less sense to operate five vans concurrently. According to the petition, a single van costs $350 for each night it runs.
The biggest problem, it seems, is that students do not know of the resources that are already available for them. According to a 2009 survey by the Student Assembly, which received more than 1,500 responses, 41 percent of students felt unsafe walking home at night. At the same time, only three percent of students reported ever using the Blue Light Escort Service. Before pouring massive amounts of resources into expanding the late night shuttle service, the University should address this awareness gap.
Additionally, a shuttle solution fails to directly address the underlying problem — that students feel unsafe walking home — and could theoretically make the walk home more risky for those who still undertake it by decreasing the number of people on footpaths and streets during dark hours.
Rather than dramatically expanding a service which might not be widely used, it might be wiser for the University to focus its money and attention on practical measures that actually ameliorate the risks of walking at night, such as the installation of more lighting on areas like the slope or adding more security.
While some students may wish to take advantage of a van ride home, all should have the opportunity to study late, walk home and feel secure. The University would do well to focus on this underlying problem above all, rather than pursuing piecemeal measures to chip away at the effects.