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Archive for Sunday, February 5, 2012

KU students designate SafeBus as preferred ride

Michael Hardy and his cousin Kayla take a ride on SafeBus in December. They say the transportation service, provided by Kansas University, is something they use often.

Michael Hardy and his cousin Kayla take a ride on SafeBus in December. They say the transportation service, provided by Kansas University, is something they use often.

February 5, 2012

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SafeBus is not a normal bus: It’s a party where the guests change every 10 minutes.

It’s early Sunday morning, 12:30 a.m., and SafeBus has just pulled up to Sixth and New Hampshire streets. Sitting near the front is Joshua, 19. Asked to describe a typical weekend night, he says: “We just randomly walk around, drink a lot and call SafeBus when we have to go home. That’s pretty much it, really.”

KU students each pay $12.10 in student fees every semester to fund SafeBus and its taxi-like sister program, SafeRide. Routes run from downtown hot spots to the KU campus. In 2008, the first year SafeBus operated, it gave the equivalent of 10,000 student rides. The program has become much more popular. Last semester, it’s provided 42,000 student rides.

The bus pulls up to Lewis Hall, Joshua’s stop. He and his friends are about to get off when he stops them.

“Hold up, we gotta clean up,” Joshua says, pointing to the empty beer cans that litter the bus floor.

He puts the cans into his backpack, and he and his friends stumble off the bus and into the night, yelling their thanks to the bus driver.

Tonight’s SafeBus crowd might be rowdy. They might be drunk. But they are a courteous bunch.

The SafeBus driver is in her mid-20s, and she’s kind of an older-sister figure. She’s constantly telling riders to have a good night and to be safe. They usually respond in kind.

“If you’re in a good mood and you’re dealing with drunk people, then it puts them in a good mood,” she says.

A new batch of students bursts onto the bus, and a guy named Dakota recognizes the driver.

“You gave us that speech that one night,” Dakota says, happy to see her.

She insists it wasn’t a speech, really — just some friendly advice.

“Be safe. Have fun. If you make mistakes, don’t make them lifelong,” she says.

Nationally, about 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related causes every year. That’s a fraction of a percent of the 17 million undergraduates in the U.S., but tens of thousands more students report assaults, sexual abuse and injuries stemming from alcohol use, according to research published in 2005 by the Annual Review of Public Health.

KU has suffered its own losses. In March 2009, 19-year-old freshman Jason Wren died of alcohol poisoning. Six weeks later, 18-year-old Dalton Eli Hawkins, also a freshman, died after a fall from Watkins Scholarship Hall, and alcohol was reportedly in his system.

Tonight on SafeBus, there’s a lot of passing talk about DUIs and responsibility. A young man in the back points out several cars that have been pulled over by police behind the Daisy Hill residence halls on Irving Hill Road.

“There are always a lot of cops pulling people over here,” a girl tells him.

In the front of the bus, two shirtless guys give their friend a sobriety test, making her stand on one foot while saying the alphabet. She can’t do it.

“Ma’am, you’re under arrest,” one says, doing his best cop impression.

She cracks up.

Even through all the joking, the riders seem to see themselves as making the responsible choice. Of course, there’s the obvious question: Why do the students, most of them under 21, need to party and drink at all?

Dakota, a junior studying economics, says he knows it doesn’t sound good — the going out, the partying. But to him, the people riding SafeBus are the ones doing the responsible thing.

“SafeBus is the better option if you are going to party,” Dakota says. “It’s not worth risking somebody’s life.”

The bus stops back at Sixth and New Hampshire, and all of the riders exit. Alone for a few moments, the driver relaxes, waiting for the next bunch.

“We have very different lifestyles,” she says about the riders. “If I drink, I definitely don’t get hammered. But they’ll grow up. They’ll learn.”

Comments

kusp8 2 years, 10 months ago

Yeup. Byob. I've known people who'll bring camel backs with alcohol In them ha.

Adrienne Sanders 2 years, 10 months ago

It would be really nice if they would extend this service to non-students (for a fee, of course). Students aren't the only ones who go out and get trashed and could use a safe ride home.

onceinawhile 2 years, 10 months ago

They would probably give you a ride anyway.

Hoots 2 years, 10 months ago

The kids don't stay on any longer than they have to. They are going from point A to point B. They want to get to the party, bar, downtown, home, etc. Don't expect any journalism in this paper. It hasn't happened in years.

2 years, 10 months ago

Maybe they ought to pull the bus over and check for open containers......

Austerity 2 years, 10 months ago

Open containers are legal while being chauffeured. Most "party" buses fall under this.

Blessed4x 2 years, 10 months ago

"Sitting near the front is Joshua, 19. Asked to describe a typical weekend night, he says: “We just randomly walk around, drink a lot and call SafeBus when we have to go home. That’s pretty much it, really.”

So the city condones underage drinking? I'm glad these kids are getting home safely, but at what point does the city move into the realm of contributing. They certainly aren't buying them beer, but they are giving them a place to drink. If think this is a great idea, are you also supportive of the parents that allow their underage children to have parties at their house using the argument that at least they are in the house and safe?

amac 2 years, 10 months ago

this is disturbing...in so many ways...I think LJW needs to further investigate this bus service.

whiteguy 2 years, 10 months ago

This bus is for safe transportation to and from the downtown area for college students from the University of Kansas . It is (NOT A PARTY BUS) and SafeRide/SafeBus Rules and Regs are

No smoking, eating, drinking, littering, running, vandalism, graffiti, or hazardous materials. No loud or intrusive use of profanity/obscenities or other disorderly conduct, including threatening or harassing behavior to other passengers and/or driver. No inappropriate/distracting conversation with the driver. No fighting or conduct allowed that could pose a threat to public safety. No firearms or other weapons. No pets allowed with the exception of certified service animals trained to assist individuals with disabilities. Stand behind the white or yellow lines and hold onto the stanchions or overhead railings. Use a seat if available. No hands, arms, heads, or personal belongings outside of the bus while in motion. No solicitation for commercial or non-commercial purposes, including KU Events. Do not take up more than one seat or place your feet on the seats. No electronic listening or music devices without headsets or earphones. Do not sleep in bus shelters. Do not open windows without the permission of the driver. Shirt and shoes are required. Follow requests made by the driver. Report suspicious behavior to the driver.

Oldsoul 2 years, 10 months ago

Funny cop impression! I guess knowing how to poke fun at authoritarian attitudes is a survival skill in this part of of the country.

bluesunshine 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm confused. Did they say the kid was 19?

Sitting near the front is Joshua, 19. Asked to describe a typical weekend night, he says: “We just randomly walk around, drink a lot

Can you say MIP?

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