Student safety jeopardized without late night buses

Brett Kuras

Before COVID-19 hit, Augustana’s social scene was booming. One of the staples of social life relied on the Metro bus company. This system would transport students to the district, a series of bars in downtown Rock Island, every weekend. The buses made different stops around campus and usually ran from midnight to three in the morning. 

During the 2020-2021 school year, the buses ended the route, partially because of unruly riders, and partially to limit COVID-19 from spreading.

Now, with vaccines widely available, there is less COVID hesitancy. Students have begun making their way back to the district but without the safety of the buses. This creates a huge problem for students that depend on the Metro to go to bars. 

Senior Alec Mager experienced the bus route before COVID hit. He said that without them, it opens a door for unsafe travel.

“It most definitely creates unsafe opportunities for people, especially when they’re under the influence,” Mager said. “People don’t make the best decisions after drinking. Since a ton of people go out, it’s sometimes difficult to find someone sober to drive people back. I know a decent amount of the time, people walk.”

Rock Island has a nine percent higher average of total crime than the state average, according to Areavibes, a website that ranks and collects data about different cities.

Not only is the area affected by the crime rate, but the campus is as well. Augustana has sent out multiple reports over the school year reporting crimes that have been committed against students, such as robberies or assaults. These instances have taken place relatively close to campus.

“I’ve had to walk back from the district, and it’s a very scary experience,” Mager said. “The Augie bubble is real, and it causes almost everyone to drop their guard. I also know people who have walked back and have been followed or been separated from their group of friends. I’m nervous that someone I know or myself is going to be in the next campus alert email.”

Olivia Smith, SGA president and  member of the Augustana Strong task force, has not heard many discussions about the buses returning, but believes students can change that.

“It’s definitely not a priority right now. No one has really pushed for them,” Smith said. “I think the school is unaware of the severity of the situation, because it’s not the administration that walks home from the district, it’s the students. If people over the age of 21 presented to the administration demonstrating why transportation is necessary, it may get their attention.”

While transportation is a key factor in the safety of students, they are still returning to the district because they’ve missed the social scene and being with their friends.

“Augie has a huge social scene, and people just like being together,” Mager said. “The district is a really good way to be with all your friends, and people have to be hindered severely to not do that.”

Metro was asked to give a statement but was unavailable. There is currently no update on when or if the buses will be returning.