Getting around Appleton has always been a challenge for Lawrentians. Lawrence University has emphasized its shuttle services in the past, but it has not always the most reliable or convenient system, especially for groups of people travelling together. The public bus takes an egregious amount of time to get to and from one destination. Uber costs an arm and a leg. Biking on Appleton streets isn’t always feasible either, especially in poor weather conditions and in the winter. Students are discouraged from bringing their own cars to campus due to lack of parking. There is no easy solution to this massive problem that Lawrentians without a car face during their time here in Appleton.
Van Parks, the director of the Department of Transportation, Automobiles, Biking and Outdoor Walking in Outagamie County (TABOO), has elected to tackle this problem. Parks said that his “great-great-great grandfather went to Lawrence before cars were even invented,” which gives him the perspective of “an earlier time.” When Parks’ initial idea of eliminating cars and bringing carriages back to Lawrence was originally rejected, he remained optimistic. He now says he has a new idea bound to knock the socks off of any current 21st-century student.
Parks shared his opinion on transportation at Lawrence University: “Ride sharing apps that students use are uber bad if you ask me. I think that students should have more freedom in getting rides.” Parks’ new proposal is to have current students at the beck and call of other students to get places. “People [already] rely on their friends with cars all the time to get to where they need to go,” Parks says. “Now it’s time to capitalize on that idea.”
A few computer science majors worked alongside Parks to develop an app to help move the project along and continue to work with him to work out the bugs. Parks explained, “It’s very similar to ride sharing apps, but it’s only with LU-registered drivers who also have parking passes. Obviously, if students are registered to be drivers, they must be receptive to the idea of driving every once in a while. If they have a car, then they must be receptive to driving other people. It’s as simple as that.” The app is in beta testing currently, with high hopes for future uses.
The app begins when a student requests a ride to a specific destination. Students who fall into the pool of students with cars and are also registered drivers will be notified incessantly until someone picks up the call. If they accept, a waiver will be sent to the ride requestor. Once the waiver has been signed, both participants must wait three business days for campus life to approve and process the waiver. Once campus life has approved the request, the ride can finally take place. If you want to change your driver or you don’t want to drive anymore, you need to give 24-hour notice. Students who do not comply will receive a letter from Parks in their SPC box stating how disappointed he is in you.
This new system will go into place at the beginning of Fall Term 2019. Students will be paid a base rate of $7.25, Wisconsin’s minimum wage. Ten-cent raises will be given every subsequent year if students continue to drive at Lawrence. Parks hopes to share his vision with campus soon.