USGD funds downtown grocery shuttle, draws skeptics

USGD branches out trolley service to provide grocery store accessibility to students

With a noticeable gap of grocery stores in the downtown area for many ASU students, Undergraduate Student Government Downtown recently funded a shuttle service connecting students to a Safeway outlet. The move, however, wasn’t without concerns.

This past academic year, USGD members funded a similar service, the Sun Devil Safety trolley; a service that ran from 7 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The trolley was, in its conception, a way to reduce traffic for the safety escort service downtown, which was receiving high frequencies of traffic at that time. 

However, USGD journalism senator and sophomore Austin Miller said the trolley didn’t have the success USGD hoped for.

“We spent a lot of money on that service, and it wasn't utilized very much, so we knew we would have to go back to the drawing board this year to see what exactly went wrong and how we could make it more successful,” Miller said.

However, with the shuttle currently costing USGD $36,000, and the widely unused trolley the year before costing around $26,000, Miller raised his concerns for the shuttle although in the end believed it was a needed service for students.

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By Ellen O'Brien | The State Press

The Sun Devil Express control panel is pictured on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. The shuttle runs Monday through Thursday and stops at a variety of locations on the downtown campus.

“It was a really tough decision to make,” he said. “Even though students said they wanted it — they said the same thing the year before about the safety trolley and we just didn't want to make another mistake like that again. Financially, we have to be careful because we only have so much money in our budget.”

It was this year that USGD President Corina Tapscott and the staff behind her took a new angle on the situation. The new service, the “Sun Devil Express” still hits all of they key stops Monday through Thursday, however, on Sunday they add Safeway to the list of stops.

The initiative for the Sunday shuttle to add Safeway to one of their stops was part of SB 1 in August 2014. The bill specifies that USGD will also market the shuttle in a way so that more students know about it. Failures in advertising were one of the shortcomings in the trolley system.

Tapscott hopes that the shuttle will help bridge the transportation gap and increase access to grocery stores in the area.

“We spent a huge portion of the summer discussing the service and … we just decided it was a big need that we could actually meet. We realized a lot of our students were wanting a different outlet to eat,” Tapscott said. 

The Metro Light Rail hits a few grocery stores farther down the route, but Tapscott said they wanted to add a more direct route for students.

Criminology senior Rachel McKay, a student who lived on the downtown campus for multiple years, agrees with Tapscott. Living off-campus now, she used the shuttle on its first day of operation, believing there’s a use for it on and off campus. 

“I did live in the dorms without this service, and I hoped for a shuttle every year,” McKay said. “It is extremely valuable because there really is no where to get groceries besides the farmer's market on Saturdays, and there is a very limited selection there.”

Sun Devil Express: Sunday Schedule 

Related Links:

How to: Be a D-Bag on the Shuttle

New intercampus shuttle system shows promise


Reach the reporter at megan.janetsky@asu.edu or follow @meganjanetsky on Twitter.

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