Illustration by Louise Leong.
Illustration by Louise Leong.

Elimination of Night Owl metro routes 16N and 19N may soon become a reality, but students will still need to get to campus after midnight.

Santa Cruz’s metro service is looking at cutbacks, and some of the heat is falling on students stranded either downtown or up on our mountain campus.

It takes 40 minutes to walk up to the base of UCSC from Pacific Avenue — and without the Night Owl routes, all of those minutes will be in the dark, post-midnight Santa Cruz jungle.

Students work downtown, live downtown, watch movies downtown, and rarely adhere to a midnight curfew. Cutting the routes isn’t a practical solution for the community, except maybe for late-night hiking enthusiasts. An Olympic long-distance runner could run the 2.35 miles between downtown and campus in nine minutes or less, but most students aren’t quite at that level yet.

The problem with cutting these particular routes is that there is no alternative transportation if a student misses the last midnight bus.

Students will party and be off-campus, whether or not there is a bus to take them back up, and may be forced to make some dangerous decisions. Driving drunk will be a more tempting offer if the alternative is walking, and the inebriated will partake in drunk walking and drunk biking as well.

It is growing consistently more dangerous around Santa Cruz. There have been 22 stabbings so far in Santa Cruz County this year, and walking around after midnight is a valid safety concern. The Dial-a-Ride service is also experiencing cuts, leaving students completely high and dry after 12 a.m. There has to be some service available for students to get around after midnight — it would even be acceptable to cut the schedule back to a skeleton crew of one or two buses.

We understand that there isn’t a lot of money circulating right now. However, sometimes a rider watches two to three daytime buses blow past within the five-minute walk to a bus stop, only to wait around for half an hour for the next. Students would be better served by the cutting of a couple of the day buses, instead of the last chances to avoid walking or hitchhiking to their destinations later at night.

The metro service has suffered from decreased ridership, as well as from decreases in revenue from California’s sales tax, brought on by lower consumer spending. In addition to the two night routes, some other services that will be eliminated are routes to Davenport, Cabrillo, and Dominican Hospital.

According to the Santa Cruz Metro Transportation Department, there were 5,013 riders on the Night Owl service for the month of February, 2010.

5,013 isn’t nothing.

Cutting routes during the day is acceptable — the inconvenience of leaving an hour early to class can be borne, and there are a solid handful of alternative routes running from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. However, cutting the only transit service to serve campus after these hours is a dangerous mistake.