Do you ever head downtown on Friday nights? Work late? These options began to look dim for UC Santa Cruz students living on campus when cuts to the Night Owl service were decided on by city bus service Santa Cruz Metro, effectively ending all public transportation after midnight. But with a recent pledge from TAPS, the Night Owl services might still have a chance.
In September, the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (SCMTD) board of directors decided that altering and eliminating several bus routes was necessary to counter the Metro’s growing deficit, which currently numbers over $3.8 million. Such cuts include reducing trips on routes 3 and 4, as well as terminating route 13 entirely. The Night Owl service, buses 16N and 19N, which stop on the UCSC campus, have received cuts as well.
The Metro’s financial situation is no joke. From 2007 to 2010, the Metro has lost over $4 million in operating revenue, and by 2012 it anticipates a service reduction of 12 percent through these cuts.
While the campus community certainly understands feeling the strain of the poor economy, eliminating public transportation past midnight in a college town like Santa Cruz would have a different kind of cost. The Night Owl Service is used by many students and residents of the city alike, who need to get home safely. Without a safe, sober ride home, travelers in the city will be put in dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations. The Night Owl Service is currently the only form of public transportation available past midnight in Santa Cruz, and if the Metro discontinues service to those who need it, riders will have to find other ways home — either calling a cab, walking home or driving drunk.
An unexpected savior has been revealed in the last few days, however. Larry Pageler of UCSC’s Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) has put out a statement pledging TAPS’ commitment to take over the Night Owl Service.
Only students would be allowed to ride, and TAPS would have to cut the majority of their Day Core routes for the program to work. However, this plan should be fully supported. Both the 16 and 19 cater primarily to students anyway, and this would be a great step forward in keeping students safe.
If students are forced to walk home past midnight, these risks are likely to increase. According to the Santa Cruz Police Department website, which partnered with CrimeMapping.com, there were 272 cases of assault in the last six months — assaults in and around Laurel Street, a street on several bus routes, numbered over 13. Without a bus, many will choose not to go downtown, which would also reduce much revenue for Pacific Avenue businesses.
To not have a fully operational bus service after dark in a college town is absurd. Of students’ fees, $334.98 goes toward city bus transportation. Hopefully, with TAPS’ help, this important service will be maintained.