The Mills van service has upset students who are kicked off the shuttle service due to insufficient space, although the service is funded by students’ tuition fees.
On Saturday, Jan. 27, many students were headed to the Rockridge BART station in order to attend a San Francisco anti-war protest, but found themselves without transportation when the driver asked them to step off the van because it was full.
Because every student attending Mills pays the same fee to use the shuttle service, many students feel that it is unfair that they can’t use the van-especially on weekends and for special events.
“For a school of [nearly] 1,000 undergraduate students, a 16 passenger van is impractical,” said Dena Watkins, a freshwoman who was kicked off the Saturday noon shuttle because there was not enough room for her and her friends going out to San Francisco. The group had to take public transportation, which Watkins felt was an unnecessary cost of both time and money. “I don’t care if Mills replaces the van with a school bus-it would have twice as many seats!”
“There’s nothing to do on on campus on the weekends,” said Hannah Huffman, another freshwoman who was kicked off the van. “Of course more people are going to want to ride at noon on a Saturday; Public Safety should plan for that.”
Director of Public Safety, Michael Lopez said he instructed the driver to not to allow more than 16 passengers onto the van.
“It was an issue of safety,” Lopez said. “Every person riding that shuttle needs to have a seat, that’s CHP regulations. We can’t let some students ride on the floor, or stand.”
This is not an isolated event – on Saturday the 10th the same group of students tried to go ice skating in Berkeley but could not board the van.
Lopez also said that there is a Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), consisting of himself, 3 or 4 students and a DSL professional, that students can contact to issue complaints and concerns. TAC brought about improvements to transportation services such as getting a new van last year, adding hours to the schedule, and making Albertson’s in the Laurel district a set stop, but many students say it’s not enough. However, many students don’t realize that there is committee on campus designed to address their transportation needs.
“Sure, I can get to Albertson’s if the van isn’t full,” said Kathy Jetnil, a first year student, “but then I can’t get picked up, and what if more than 16 girls need to get somewhere? What happens when the van is full on the way back, and I’m stuck out somewhere because the shuttle I pay for can’t pick me up?”
The van driver on Saturdays, who wishes to remain nameless, had no apologies, saying “I was doing my job,” when he disallowed the students from riding. “I called Michael Lopez, he said no more than 16. What could I do?”
Lopez said that Mills Public Safety is looking into more capacity shuttles, but “it’s a budget issue,” he said. The current van is 8 months old and cost the college 60, 000 dollars.
“What we have to take into consideration is that the van is not always that crowded. We run that shuttle 7 days a week, from 7 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night on weekdays, and until 11 o’clock on Saturday,” said Lopez.
“Mills Women always ride first, and all others ride second. I had the unfortunate duty of telling people on Saturday that they couldn’t ride. But that’s why we ask for ID,” he added.
Lopez stressed the importance of TAC, which meets for about an hour on Friday afternoons, and encourages students to send in their concerns to the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.