If you’re a student at Seattle University, then chances are it’s happened to you.
It’s midnight, and you’re on 18th Avenue and Union Street, contemplating how you’re going to navigate your way home. You have a choice to make: risk the walk, or call the Night Hawk.
Unfortunately, the latter option means that, on a weekend night, you might be waiting for a ride for upwards of 30 minutes. Chances are, you may just decide to throw caution to the wind and make the walk.
Because of this, next year students will have four more Night Hawk cars at their beck and call.
For Timothy Marron, the current Executive Director of Public Safety and Transportation, students should never have to jeopardize their safety because they can’t get a ride.
“Personally, I never want to have a student be in a position late at night where they say: ‘You know what, I think I’m just gonna walk.’”
To accommodate the high demand for the service, Public Safety has decided to swap out the school’s current vehicles for something more efficient. Instead of the two current Ford Escape Hybrids that the school has on lease, the new year’s Public Safety will have six Nissan Leafs.
According to Marron, the change comes in response to the fact that students so often have to wait long periods of time before a Night Hawk arrives. For him, this defeats the point of the service’s intended purpose: making sure that students have a safe way home.
Marron thinks that this problem initially developed because the Night Hawk service was rushed in its initial implementation. He points to the emergency bars at the top of the vehicle. For him, they don’t make much sense for a car used primarily for transporting students.
“It seems like it was sort of a program that wasn’t clearly designed to try and serve a large number of the student body,” Marron said. “So when you’re looking at a program like that, and the expectations start to rise, that’s pretty unrealistic when you have two vehicles, student drivers, and a limited range.”
Marron says that he wants to stress that the Night Hawk is still expressly a service for getting students back and forth between campus and their destination without having to put themselves in any danger at night.
In addition to providing more vehicles (and the student jobs that come along with them) the new cars will be more in line with the school’s mission. The cars will run on electricity and have 6.6 kilowatt batteries, which only require about three hours for them to fully charge. The charging station, Marron says, will probably be located on the far northern side of the visitor parking lot.
It also looks like the entire process—both the purchase and maintenance of the cars as well as the charging stations—won’t cost the school any more money than the current vehicles do.
“To me, we should have a vehicle more representative of the university and more clearly defined as to what it actually is: a courtesy transport for students. So, in looking at the cost of these particular vehicles, plus with new leasing programs for Nissan, we are able to get six for the price of what we’re putting out already,” Marron said.
The new vehicles might also be part of a larger plan on the part of DPST to provide students with more transportation options. Though this is still just an idea, Marron said that DPST has considered using the school’s vans to set up “bus stops” around the area to move students around.
Currently the new vehicles are set to debut in the fall. Depending on the needs that are met by the revamped service, DPST will begin evaluating what other changes can be made.
“Because we have more vehicles, and more drivers, we can look at how that will affect transport times for people and pickup waits and all that,” he said. “I think that it’s just gonna be a work in progress, and we’re going to make sure that demand is there.”