IM this article to a friend!

November 4, 2002

Flashing lights will alert riders of CMU escort vans

From: The Tartan, PA
Nov. 4, 2002

by Liz Kwak,

Students who previously eschewed the university’s escort service may soon have reason to give the vehicles more than a passing glance or a glance as they pass.

Campus Police and University administration are considering proposals to improve the often disappointing system.

One change that would enhance communication between escort drivers and students would be the clear marking of all designated escort stops.

A work order has been placed by the university to paint the sidewalk at these specific locations.

Another potential change entails the installment of a lighting system inside buildings at stops. The lights would be activated by the escort driver, who would call into the system approximately one minute before his arrival at each destination. The major benefit of the lighting system, especially in the winter, is that students would not have to wait in the cold for escort.

While this system would be extremely helpful in the winter months, there is concern over the safety of riding in a car with a driver trying to perform multiple tasks. As a result the plans are still in their preliminary stages.

“We’re still exploring many different avenues. We want to find a way that will above all serve the students the best we can,” said Sergeant William Ricci, a campus police veteran who has overseen escort and shuttle service operations for over 20 years.

Initially designed to accommodate deaf riders, the alert system carries with it alert benefits for the entire campus community. But do not expect to stay toasty in the UC staring at an alert light this winter.

University officials anticipated that the system would have begun near the start of the semester, but blamed delays on technological and hardware setbacks.

Ricci said the implementation now appears near, that the new technology could be fully operational in a day, a week, or a month.

He is not sure.

Unlike undeveloped suggestions for an alert system, students can already contact escort drivers directly via driver cell phones, completely eliminating the dispatcher middleman, allowing would-be riders to learn of shuttle location and request pickup.

Escort drivers are also required to possess a commercial driver’s license and must have some kind of experience as a professional driver, ranging from work as chauffeurs to truck drivers.

Currently, CMU employs eight personnel drivers, whom students can describe with more than a few anecdotes of responsibility shirking.

“I’ve noticed that there is one bus driver in particular who does not leave the Underground when he’s supposed to so he can play arcade games,” said Marija Wilson, a senior biological sciences major.

“I’d been waiting outside Baker Hall with some friends for a while when the escort van drove past us. I found out later that the bus was full, but we would have really appreciated if they could have stopped for a second to let us know,” said Vanessa Gerber, junior mechanical engineering major.

Besides common courtesy, promptness of the service is also a student concern.

“I would ride escort a lot more than I do now, but I’ve heard escort has a tendency to be late. Since I can’t rely on it, I try to avoid riding it if I can,” said Adrienne Chu, a sophomore computer science major.

Unlike the escort system, the number of complaints about the shuttle service, another transportation service offered by the university, is comparatively small.

The shuttle operates for several hours in the morning hours and early evening hours. With three specific driving routes, the shuttle service does not allow students to request a preferred location, greatly minimizing variation. Alternatively, escort enables students to be transported to a desired location within certain boundaries.

Ricci believes transportation mishaps can be held to a minimum if students use the resources provided wisely.

Pamphlets that contain all relevant information about the escort and shuttles services are available at the UC info desk.

The Campus Police website also provides help on schedules, locations and other information at

© 1999-2002 The Tartan Newspaper