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USF’s wish: a safe and speedy trip

When USF announced plans to hold classes at the University Mall, the biggest concern on the minds of many students and professors alike was being able to travel to the mall safely and quickly.

In response to this concern, Parking and Transportation Services has extended its services to include regular drop-offs at the mall classrooms.

Greg Sylvester, director for Parking and Transportation Services, said the added shuttle services seems to be handling demand well.

“We tried to prepare for the worst, but we were hoping for something better than that,” Sylvester said. “From everything we’ve seen, it appears to be working OK.”

Sylvester said Parking and Transportation Services has been planning for the new class traffic for some time. He said there are now four shuttle buses running to and from the mall on a regular basis.

“It’s kind of a pilot program,” he said. “Four shuttles on route seem to be handling things fine.”

In previous semesters Parking and Transportation Services has offered a mall express shuttle for students who do not have cars, which was partially funded by the University Mall. With the increased demand this semester, a stop at the mall has been added to the D route, which also serves the Hartline depot just off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. Sylvester said University Mall is still partially funding transportation.

“They are keeping their same commitment,” he said. “They were very agreeable to that.”

Sylvester said while shuttles are made available to pick up students immediately after classes, students who want to stay later at the mall will still be able ride the shuttle late into the day.

“We run the service through the evening through our normal 8:30-9 time frame,” he said.

Sylvester said in the first two weeks of the program, he has not personally heard any complaints from students about the slowness of service. He said, however, that students must be aware that making it to the mall quickly is not always a guarantee.

“One of the things we communicated to the provost’s office last fall was to make sure the word gets out (to plan for extra travel time),” he said. “There are a whole lot of caveats. This is the first time we’re doing this, so I wouldn’t expect it to be totally problem free.”

Sylvester said he encourages students with complaints to speak with him directly.

“If anybody has had any problems, I would hope they would contact (me),” he said. “I would love to talk to them and find out what’s going on.”

In addition to transportation concerns, safety is an issue for students attending classes in what is a high-crime area. Sylvester said students traveling by shuttle are delivered and picked up directly in front of the entrance to the mall movie theaters. He said his drivers are also always looking out for safety problems.

“Drivers and patrollers know things to look for,” he said. “That stuff is pretty standard for us. As a normal procedure our folks try to keep their eyes out.”

Mall general manager Tom Locke said the mall has equipped its security for the influx of students.

“We’ve set up some cameras to be able to see students come in and out of parking,” Locke said.

Locke said security at the mall, which he said hosts 15 million visitors annually, is well maintained.

“We already had 24-hour security (in place),” he said.In response to safety concerns, University Police Lt. Terry Gordon said officers have talked to students about remaining safe while attending classes at the mall.

“What we have done from this end is we are meeting with all the classes to talk to them about personal safety and auto theft and things of that nature,” Gordon said.

Gordon said she encourages students to utilize the shuttle system in traveling to the mall. She said students should also walk in groups to and from class and remain normally cautious of their surroundings.

Gordon said in addition to shuttle drivers remaining aware, a Hillsborough County Sherrif’s Department deputy is stationed at the mall. She said, like Parking and Transportation Services, UP is working to keep students safe.

“We’ve been working on this for quite some time in order to ensure the safety of students,” she said.

  • Contact Rob Brannonat oraclerob@yahoo.com