The cost of a safe ride home

June 11 — About to move onto a campus more than two miles long, freshmen should plan to brush up on math and local geography over the summer. With the cost of a cab ride possibly about to spike, it will useful to know that 10 bucks is going to get you across campus — once. Students will want to figure out the costs of a trip to the late-night study center (remember those one-way streets) or a ride home from work.

In Boston, the public transportation system shuts down shortly after midnight and students are left with two simple options for getting home after this time: ever-more-costly cab rides or their own two feet. Told not to risk their safety and always walk in groups after dark, students will quickly learn this simply is not always possible. A plain directive, the buddy-walk system is even made more accessible at Boston University by the Escort Security Service, a student group dedicated to accompanying students around campus on foot after dark for safety’s sake.

As friendly as the students who run the service are, many students who are out after hours are tired and will bring another factor in their walk-or-wait math: time. If it will take 15 minutes to get a buddy for a half-mile walk, is the wait worth it, many students have pondered. The number of reported on-street robberies and assaults near campus might also factor into a student’s equation, and, given the trade-offs in time and money, many students opt not to call for a walking escort or to hail a cab, but rather to just hoof it home.

This is not the sort of equation students should face, wagering safety against better judgment and budget. College students rightly puzzle over problem sets; safety should never be a tough question, particularly when the student attends as well endowed a university as BU.

The Escort Security Service not too long ago had a van, and by the count of student workers over the years, reported in The Daily Free Press, fewer students call the service since the administration cut the van during a budget shortfall two years ago. Administrators have called the van a ‘taxi service,’ as if that were a bad thing. Sober, studying or sloppy, students benefit from a ‘taxi service’ late at night. When the university can move students in volume with a van, rather than leaving them to their own wallets and options, it should.

If a proposed taxi fare hike is approved, the burden of safe, late-night transportation in Boston will fall even more heavily upon students. The university must step in to make sure students do not take unnecessary risks and decide to walk home after dark, when affordable public transportation is no longer an option. Providing a university service to transport students is not a remote idea. In fact, the college closest to BU already does it.

The fleet of buses and shuttles that regularly crisscross BU’s Charles River Campus is actually run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Though the MIT campus is slightly more centralized than BU’s, the student population is just as far flung. MIT fraternities and houses dot Beacon Street and Bay State Road, alongside BU brownstones, and spread into surrounding Brookline and Allston neighborhoods. MIT provides a convenient and safe mode of transportation for its students, who can travel to, from and around campus well into the night.

The only semblance of this dream team of transport at BU is the BU Shuttle. A convenience during the school day, the shuttle quits when it counts, as service hours end just before the T also stops running. The purpose of the BUS is to link the Medical and Charles River campuses. It is not meant to address the problem of late-night transport. This means coming up with a way to help students get home safely is still on the university’s to-do list.

Students must pressure the university to help them heed the school’s own warnings about late-night urban dangers. Gas prices are going up, but thought remains free. Student leaders and administrators can — and must — dream up a way to creatively address the costs of transportation so students will never need to ponder the relative value of personal safety while they are at BU.

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