A new late-night, weekend bus, in place during the spring semester to provide transportation to off-campus venues, has seen enough riders that Student Affairs is making the route available at least through next fall.
The bus service is being offered this spring on a trial basis. Plans call for a formal review at the end of the semester. Figures tallied by Transportation Services show the number of riders has fluctuated substantially, but has been as high as 221 in one night.
"I don't think one semester is enough time to gauge demand for the service, especially given that student habits and behaviors are typically established in the fall," says Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs. "It may be that the bus service is already a success, given the number of riders we've attracted in the middle of the school year."
The service, which began in January, is available from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. every Friday and Saturday. It is expected to cost $7,000 to operate this semester, according to Moneta. The route starts at the bus stop on West Campus on Chapel Quad, then travels to Anderson Street to pick up students on Central Campus. It then makes its way to Erwin Square and Ninth Street, then to East Campus, before stopping at Brightleaf Square. The route takes about thirty minutes, including the return trip.
"We're measuring ridership every night to determine how many students are using the service and to what extent," says Stephen Burrell, assistant director of Duke Transit. "We're also trying to ascertain whether different groups are riding or if it is generally the same people."
Bus service to local night spots has been tried before at Duke with modest success, but Moneta says the emergence of more restaurants and night spots in recent years makes it more likely that the current service will succeed. Popular places on the route include Parizade, George's Garage, Satisfaction Restaurant & Bar, Yancey's Jazz and Blues Café, and The Edge, a nightclub that caters to college students.
According to Burrell, some students who board the bus have been drinking, but behavior has not been a problem. "Students have behaved responsibly. We haven't noticed a difference in student behavior, whether it is the new weekend bus or an existing campus route on a Friday or Saturday night."
The idea for the service emerged last fall when Duke juniors Joshua Jean-Baptiste and Evan Davis presented a proposal to Moneta. Jean-Baptiste is student government's vice president for student affairs; he will become president of the organization at the end of the academic year. Davis is its chief of staff. One reason they advanced the proposal is that many students, particularly those on West Campus, want to go into Durham on weekends but lack transportation, according to Davis. He says that although some students use the bus in place of a designated driver, he doesn't think the service encourages excessive drinking.