New shuttle route aims to protect UM pedestrians

In an effort to increase the safety of students crossing the ever-busy U.S. 1 intersections running parallel to campus, the University has added a new route to the HurryCanes shuttle system.

The route comes as a result of the pedestrian safety issues that arose in the spring of 2005, when freshman Ashley Kelly died after she and freshman Andrea Cinque were hit by a car while crossing a U.S. 1 intersection. The topic became a heated platform through which the University administration and Student Government executives began their initiative for the construction of an overpass, which is not scheduled for completion until January 2009.

“President Shalala and I saw [the new routes] as a way to respond in the interim to the overpass,” Dr. Pat Whitely, vice president for student affairs, said. “It was a prudent step in protecting the students.”

The new shuttle route will go from Dickinson Drive to Stanford Circle and then make three stops along U.S. 1 at Starbucks, CVS and the University Centre Plaza shopping center. The shuttles will run from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

Although Student Government was a proponent of the new shuttles, the cost of the added route was paid for out of Dr. Whitely’s budget.

Further measures were taken that required county officials’ involvement.

“One of the things the school looked at to increase pedestrian safety was to petition for the county to put up a fence along the Metrorail and other areas where people would cross illegally and jaywalk,” Student Government President Pete Maki said. “That should be done in the next week or two.”

Additionally, safety videos that were featured in the Orientation sessions for all incoming freshmen will be shown repeatedly on the HurryCanes shuttles. Although the videos present basic ideas such as looking before crossing the street and using the crosswalks, the intent is to remind students that being cautious is imperative.

Costs for construction of the overpass are estimated at $6 million, a bill that the county is hoping not to have to front alone.

“One of the reasons the overpass will take longer than we originally thought is because the county is not paying for it,” Maki said. “They have appealed for federal funding.”

The overpass had been in planning long before Kelly’s death.

“After the tragedy, the plans were expedited,” Maki said. “The rallies held last semester moved the process into the public realm..”

The “expedited” path to construction may still be slow, since the county’s community impact study on pedestrian use of the area was conducted during the summer, a time when the University campus is nearly void of students. As a result, the statistics gathered are not an accurate representation of the usage of crosswalks.

“Until the overpass is complete, students should use the shuttle at all times and use the crosswalks [when on foot],” Dr. Whitely said. “Although, I always remind students, Ashley and Andrea were using the crosswalk when they were hit.”

Stacey Arnold can be contacted at