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Published: Friday, 3/17/2006

Red Eye bus set to roll for UT students

BY KARAMAGI RUJUMBA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

University of Toledo students who plan on having a great night this St. Patrick's Day - one of the heaviest drinking nights on college campuses - can now plan on safety and not driving while intoxicated.

In an effort to establish a permanent designated-driver program, the UT student government in coordination with a group of bar owners along Dorr Street tonight will begin operating a bus that will take students to and from bars around the campus and drop them off at or closer to their homes.

The shuttle service bus, known as the Red Eye, will pick up and drop off students at bars along Dorr Street, including Jake's Saloon, Jax Bar and Grill, the Ale House, and Chasers.

"This is our way of trying to get people out of cars when they drink," said Ashley Sheroian, vice president of the UT student government.

Ms. Sheroian said that the shuttle, which will be on a trial basis, will run from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

The shuttle is strictly for students, who will have to show their university identification cards. It will cost students a dollar to ride to various locations for the whole night. And while the UT student government will oversee the program, the shuttle service will be paid for by the bar owners, Ms. Sheroian said.

"It was an idea that we gave to the bar owners because the school administration would not get involved with it," she said. "The school decided not to initiate the program because of the liability issues involved."

After its initial trial tonight, the shuttle will make runs on Thursday nights and will make several stops between the bars frequented by students along Dorr, the university's transportation center, and in the Bancroft Hills area.

"I think it's a great idea," said Ed Lajeski, a junior from Parma, Ohio.

"We ought to have a shuttle service that students can use without having to worry about driving after a night of drinking," Mr. Lajeski, a Pi Kappa Phi fraternity member, said. "My fraternity has a designated driver program, but it's good to know that there will be a shuttle that more students can use - especially since most of them go to the bars along Dorr Street."

Even though the shuttle service will be independent of the school's administration, Kaye Patten Wallace, UT vice president for student life, said she applauded the students for taking the initiative to work with area bars in creating it.

"We obviously don't endorse certain behaviors, but we always caution our students to be responsible if they are going to drink and that is why this is a good program to have in place," Ms. Wallace said.

The UT student government is one of many student organizations at universities around the country that have started similar designated-driver programs or safe-ride programs, said Butch Oxendine, executive director of the American Student Government Association.

In Ohio, Mr. Oxendine pointed to similar programs at the University of Dayton, Denison University, and Shawnee State University.

"Many student government bodies have discovered that this is one way to make themselves relevant on campus," Mr. Oxendine said.

"At many campuses, students don't even know what the student government does, and this is something tangible that they can do to raise their profile," Mr. Oxendine said.

While no such program exists at Bowling Green State University, Aaron Schumaker, the undergraduate student government president, said school officials have discussed the possibility of a more comprehensive shuttle service that would shuttle students not just to bars but to downtown Bowling Green restaurants and stores.

"It's something we're considering, and we have already received positive feedback," he said.

Contact Karamagi Rujumba at:

krujumba@theblade.com or

419-724-6064.



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