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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
As of Friday, the University of Iowa now has two of its popular Nite Ride vans in circulation – an addition administrators made in response to student concerns about safety and sexual assault on campus.
UI officials debuted the newest 14-passenger Nite Ride vehicle Friday morning on the Pentacrest. The idea was to get it up and running this weekend – while many students are still on spring break – to work out any kinks not only with the van but with a new dispatch system, said Bill Searls, associate director with the UI Department of Public Safety.
“That way, when the students return, it will be ready for them,” Searls said.
The Nite Ride service, which offers free transportation for women on campus from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., has grown in popularity in recent years. In January and February, for example, it served nearly 2,400 women.
Adding a van will reduce wait times and allow for even more safe rides for UI students, Searls said.
“It will make it a lot more efficient,” he said.
The new van cost about $55,000, and it will cost about $50,000 a year to staff, according to Searls.
UI President Sally Mason announced the university would add a second van earlier this month following a string of sexual assaults on campus and student protests demanding a heightened response from administrators. The new van is part of Mason's “six-point plan” to combat sexual violence.
The plan also calls for administrators to meet regularly with a student advisory group, change language in the UI's timely warning emails, revamp online tools and information around sexual violence on campus, and crack down on offenders.
Before the addition of the second Nite Ride van, the service was at capacity, according to Loren Noska, a captain with the UI Department of Public Safety.
“It renews our commitment to safety for all members of campus,” he said.