Western is hoping to expand its Late Night Shuttle service to include a route that will extend further into the neighborhoods south of campus. The shuttle rerouting stems from the growing student population in the Happy Valley area.
The current Late Night Shuttle runs every 15 minutes from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. It stops at key locations following Whatcom Transportation Authority’s bus services set routes. It’s free for students, paid for by the Alternative Transportation fee.
The AS Alternative Transportation Committee, headed by AS Alternative Transportation Coordinator Maxwell Evans and AS Vice President for Student Life Robby Eckroth, is leading the call for expanding the shuttle route. Together the two, with the support of the committee, have found a way to extend the shuttle route without adding an extra cost to the Alternative Transportation fee.
A Geographic Information System survey found that the Happy Valley area south of campus is one of the areas around Bellingham that is most populated by students. That and the lack of lighting and sidewalks made the Happy Valley neighborhood a high contender for the new shuttle route.
“There’s been an increasing need for a South campus shuttle,” Evans said. “Especially over the years now South campus has become more populated with students. So, when I came into my position that was a goal of mine, was to look at revising the shuttle schedule and getting it to where we’re going to have more service because all the students pay into it, so we want to make sure we are serving the students. South campus is one of the most populated areas, it’s also one of the darker spots, as opposed to the lettered streets, which are closer to downtown, better lit and more patrolled.”
The proposed route will not replace the current route. The proposed and current routes will overlap. Starting at the downtown bus station, the proposed shuttle route will follow the current route up Indian Street through campus until 21st Street. There, the proposed route will break off and continue, following WTA’s current bus infrastructure, down 21st Street, east across Donovan Street, up 32nd Street then back on Bill McDonald Parkway.
e proposed shuttle will go down Samish Way and back to the downtown station.
The new route will not only serve the Happy Valley neighborhoods, but the York and Sehome neighborhoods as well, allowing more students to utilize the Late Night Shuttle services.
“We’ve been having to make sure, through data collection, that we’re serving the most students that we possibly can by adjusting this route because we want this to be a set route for multiple years and not just something that we end up switching again,” Eckroth said.
Although, the new shuttle route is not set in stone just yet. The proposed new route is going to be given to the Neighborhoods Association for approval. Concerns from the Neighborhoods Association include the noise of the shuttle and the amount of drunk students the shuttle will draw.
However Eckroth assures that the shuttle will solve problems rather than cause them, the main one being safety. The proposed extended Late Night Shuttle route will keep students off the roads late at night.
“Right now there’s also a lack of lighting on south campus, which I think is a major safety issue, so by having that shuttle route you’re not only helping students get to where they need to be but also have more eyes on the street so it’s just a safer environment,” Eckroth said.
The current Alternative Transportation fee is $26.25 per quarter and covers the Late Night Shuttle and the WTA student bus pass. The new route will expand the shuttle service without raising the current fee.
“I think it’s important because we all pay into the Alternative Transportation fee, which is already a great deal... I really want to make sure that this service is able to be provided to as many students as possible,” Evans said.
“Now we have a program on campus that you might not fully take advantage of versus someone living elsewhere. Obviously, we won’t be able to reach everyone in that way, but it will expand the program enough that it will create service for thousands of students, I mean, thousands of students live south of campus, so it will be able to provide that for them. It’s really just making the service better and more efficient,” Evans said.