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Public transit poses problems for students

Students exit the Mills College shuttle. Though the college encourages students to use public transportation, some options are too difficult for night travel. (Amber Mendoza)

Mills College encourages commuters to use public transportation and the Mills Shuttle instead of driving. For residential students without cars, these options often fall short of their expectations.

The Bay Area is well known for its broad range of public transit commuting options, like AC Transit, BART, and Muni. Mills College also has its own form of transportation: the Mills Shuttle. Mills is encouraging its students to use Bay Area modes of public transportation for their commute — BART and AC Transit — as opposed to traveling by car.

Mills uses its website and brochures to advertise the attractions of the San Francisco Bay Area, and encourages students to explore off campus. Under the ‘Campus Life’  section of the Mills Undergraduate Admissions website,  “SF Bay Area” has its own tab, including it as much a part of the student life as on-campus aspects like dining and athletics.

“One of the goals of sustainability for Mills this year is to get faculty, staff, and students to commute more,” said Niviece Robinson, the director of public safety on campus, referring to the public transit options available to students. “The shuttle has been accessed by students who have concurrent enrollment with UC Berkeley. It has always served two purposes: to get students to and from UC Berkeley, and to get them to and from the Kaiser Health Center when they can’t be seen here at Mills.”

The Mills College shuttle has been a point of contention for many students, especially ones without any other form of transportation. Although the purpose of the shuttle is to take students to and from their classes at UC Berkeley and Kaiser, and Mills campus, some students have other obligations in Berkeley that they use the shuttle to fulfill.

First-year Arizona Milotich commutes on the Mills shuttle to attend her UC Berkeley Fencing team practices, which meets Mon through Thurs from 8:30 p.m. to as late as midnight or 1 a.m.

“Most nights I take the shuttle there, and then I take the 1 and the 57 back to Mills. I have pepper spray with me at all times, but I still don’t feel safe taking the buses back late at night. I even asked the 1 bus driver if I could stay on until the 57 got there because I didn’t want to get off. It takes a really long time to get back and sometimes I won’t arrive on campus until about two in the morning,” said Milotich. She has to take AC Transit from Berkeley to Mills if she misses the last Mills shuttle which leaves UC campus at 10:25 pm.

Some feel that the shuttle is a vital part of their every day lives, but does not necessarily meet all of their needs.

“I have to work to support myself, there’s no way around it. The way my schedule is this year is perfect: the shuttle comes in time for me to get to work, and leaves Berkeley right when I get off. But I do think it presents some safety issues because when I miss the shuttle, I have to take AC Transit and won’t get back to Mills until late at night. I don’t feel safe taking the bus home that late anyway,” said Jillien Davey, a sophomore who lives at Mills.

In addition to working off campus, students who are interested in the nightlife the Bay Area has to offer often find themselves in nearby towns like Rockridge or Berkeley, which are only accessible by car or public transit.

“Most social things we do are in Berkeley, and we have to take taxis home sometimes. It would be nice if the shuttle ran later because we wouldn’t feel like we don’t have a safe way to get home,” said Davey.

With students frustrated over the fact that they may not be able to safely stay in Berkeley later than 10:25pm on a Friday night, they raise questions about why the shuttle does not run later in to the night.

“Drivers can only drive so many hours during the day; we have to think about rest periods. We have to think of the added cost of the drivers plus current overhead, like an oil change every month. We know if we add 5 more runs, this is what it’ll burn our gas up to. And right now, part of our sustainability goal is to lower our greenhouse emissions, so we have to consider if we’re really utilizing the bus to the best ability,” said Robinson.

There are other options for late night transportation instead of the shuttle or AC Transit if students feel too unsafe to use it.

“We have a cab voucher service that can be billed back to your student account, and there are some buses that run late. We also have a U-Car Share system on campus. If students are trying to commute, it may just mean leaving an hour or two earlier and taking the time to map out your trip on,” said Robinson.