Saturday, January 22, 2011

On Safety

Forgive me for ranting.

One of Richmond's major safety selling points, at least for my parents, was the Safety Shuttle. Affectionately called "The Raper" by U of R students, the Safety Shuttle was funded by a gift from a Westhampton College alumni to protect girls who were walking home alone at night. It only took girls and ran, by phone call, during nighttime hours and anywhere on campus. It say this in the past tense because Richmond has made some "improvements" to this shuttle.

The first of these was the gender desegregation of the shuttle. Which I can kind of understand when it's understood that the majority of assaults on campus first semester were on guys. I never really had an issue with that, but several of my female friends have admitted to feeling unsafe having guys on the same shuttle that used to guarantee them a safe way home. A friend of mine commented that "someone could get on and follow her off and back to her dorm," which is exactly what the shuttle is supposed to prevent.

The most recent "improvement" is the one I have an issue with. Instead of operating on a call-in basis, the Safety Shuttle now runs on a continuous loop around campus from 7 to 3 every night. At first glance, this sounds phenomenal. However, the Raper now only stops at 15 pre-designated stops on campus. You have to walk from your current location to the nearest stop and wait. For a long time. Then you can get on, but must get off at another pre-assigned stop, whereas you used to be able to get dropped off right at your dorm. This leaves a lot of waiting and a lot of lone walking that the old system prevented.

Then, there's the issue of where these stops are. First of all, good luck knowing. I had no idea until I looked it up online and when I tried to call the old Safety Shuttle hotline number, they did nothing to tell me except to refer me online. Second of all, there are a lot of places on campus that the Shuttle used to hit (like the off-campus but still school-owned houses at Bostwick) that are not a part of the new continuous loop.

I actually felt safer walking home by myself than waiting for the shuttle the other night, and that's precisely the opposite of what the Safety Shuttle is supposed to accomplish.

Hoping someone's listening,
Rachel Leigh

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