Inebriated Students Chose Dave’s Ride

Transportation Services calls it the “Late Night” bus. Students call it the “Drunk Bus.” The latter is a much more accurate description of the free transportation that many UVM students stumble upon between 12:30 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. on the weekends. The Late-Night bus began its route in the fall of 2003. The goal was to provide “safe and secure transportation to UVM students who might be traveling back and forth from downtown, the North End of Burlington, and the UVM Campus late on weekend nights,” Michael Altman, UVM’s Transportation Manager, told The Cynic. Altman estimates that Thursday night usage is around 100 and Friday and Saturday night the bus serves as many as 150 passengers a night. Is the “Drunk Bus” the most effective means of keeping students safe and off the streets? Rutgers University in New Jersey has what one could call a true Drunk Bus. This is an on-call, individualized service available to students who need a ride back to their dorm room (or other nearby location) after the regular bus service is finished for the night. When asked why UVM has no such program, Altman said that several years ago, UVM experimented with a similar program called Safe Ride, an on-demand program staffed by students. “Safe Ride” was first administered by the Student Government Association and later by Police Services. The program, however, suffered from a lack of patronage and undependable staffing. “Our current Late Night service was brought in as both a substitute for this program and as a way to cooperate with the city’s desire to reduce the noise levels and vandalism that was being blamed on UVM students late at night in the city,” said Altman. Altman added that use of the current Late Night bus far exceeds that of the Safe Ride Program, “this fixed route system better fills the needs of the majority of UVM students.” The driver of the bus, Dave, agreed, saying that frequently “students irritate the neighbors and sometimes they even catch the attention of the police. I do my best to stop that.” “Designated Dave,” who has been driving the UVM Late-Night bus since last January, is from Enosburg, Vermont: population 2,788. Enosburg is about 45 miles Northeast of Burlington.It is a common misconception that Dave’s name is really “Bob.” Dave explained this, saying that Bob drives the same bus during the day and has a nameplate at the front of the bus. Students, too preoccupied with weekend festivities, began calling him “Bob” last year and haven’t been able to kick the habit. It seems that no matter how many times drunken UVMers call him “Bob” and get corrected, they still call him “Bob” the next time they board the bus.When asked how he felt about driving the late-night shift, Dave chuckled and said, “I enjoy this shift; most people are in a good mood.”It seems as if Dave knows a lot more about what’s going on downtown than the average UVMer. “I try to get the kids as close to the party as I can,” Dave said, realizing that many of his high-spirited passengers would have a hard time navigating the streets of Burlington without him. He will often stop the bus for students even if they are not at a designated bus stop; “many of them aren’t able to find the bus stop,” said Dave, only half kidding. “I’m the world’s greatest designated driver,” Dave remarked, proudly. Dave gets a lot of respect from his young passengers, who always ask how he’s doing as they stumble up the steps. Many students even shake his hand, saying, “see ya next weekend,” as they get off at their stop. Sometimes, Dave even lends his departing passengers a little advice from his spring of knowledge. As one underage passenger wobbled down the stairs onto the sidewalk, Dave reminded him, chuckling, “don’t forget to go to church in the morning!” It seems that for many of his frequent riders, Dave has assumed a role similar to that of a good-humored grandfather. So next time students ride the “Drunk Bus,” hopefully they can remember to call him Dave; he has helped steer them from danger more times than they can recall.