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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

ND, SMC student government administrations discuss Midnight Express cancellation

Transportation has been a much-discussed issue during Saint Mary’s senior Terra Nelson’s term as president of Student Government Association (SGA).

When the respective student governments and administrations of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s decided to cancel the Transpo Midnight Express due to a 50% increase in cost, Nelson said there was an initial rush of complaints.

“When the change first happened, we got a lot of really negative feedback,” she said. 

A statement released by the student governments of the tri-campus community requested that students interested in helping find a suitable replacement for the Midnight Express contact their institution’s student government. Nelson did not find the responses SGA received to be particularly useful.

“I wouldn’t say that we got positive feedback,” Nelson said. “I wouldn’t say that we got solutions.”

Junior Patrick McGuire, Notre Dame student body vice president, said in an email that, as stated in the initial statement regarding the Midnight Express, the ridership of the Midnight Express had declined approximately 25% over the past three years and ridership was “continuing in a negative trajectory.”

McGuire said in the email that the problems surrounding the Midnight Express stemmed from a lack of budgeting. 

“An important note not included in that statement is the fact that the past two Student Government administrations had not budgeted for the Midnight Express,” McGuire said in the email. “This resulted in a $30,000 debt at the end of the last term. Over the same past two years, student government’s budget has decreased $10,000.”

Additionally, McGuire added about 17 Notre Dame students used the route each weekend.

Even after an entire semester without the service, Nelson said she is still interested in hearing from other students about what could be done to provide effective transportation for the campus community.

“Saint Mary’s student government has looked at our peer institutions in terms of transportation, but there’s no other institution quite like ours where we need transportation across the street,” she said. “That’s not normal, but that’s special, and I’d like it to improve and grow.”

Part of Nelson and SGA vice president Olivia Allen’s original campaign platform addressed improved transportation, including continuing the last student government’s plan for having the escort van service, Blinkie, run on Sundays.

“The reports that I’m getting are it’s going well, and [it’s] been used,” Nelson said. “We get numbers and they’re strong. Blinkie is being used consistently and even with the additional times.”

An additional part of the Saint Mary’s seniors’ platform was providing Blinkie service to the Grotto on Saturdays with home football games. Nelson said this initiative proved impossible due to funding and the volume of students who would likely use the service.

“It’s a van; it’s not a bus,” Nelson said. “A  lot of people are going across the street on game days. So in terms of numbers versus availability, we’re talking a really long line or going back and forth. ... It’s just something that we weren’t able to get done. That to me is disheartening. But when we think of in terms of larger-scale transportation solutions, I would love for that to be a part of it.”

Additionally, McGuire said Notre Dame student government is in the process of creating a deal with a ride-sharing program for next semester. 

“We are making progress with the Notre Dame transportation and operations administrative teams on instituting a ridesharing partnership to provide safe late-night rides for students, particularly focusing on low-income students,” McGuire said. “We hope to see a program roll out next semester.”