Inverse Snobbery Revisited : A midnight Rumination!

Is advocating the use of campus shuttles and shunning SafeRide at northwestern my way of being an inverse snob?


To believe that I am really burning midnight oil, I sometimes make use of the library late at night. Cold October nights at Chicago coupled with the infamous reputation created by the local crime charts, walking back a mile at 2:30 am is not advisable. No prizes for guessing that owning cars is a luxury few graduate students afford. Agreed, second hand cars are cheap so is gas, but overheads like a parking permit (even on campus) and insurance make this an unaffordable luxury for most of us.

Our university understands the need to ship us safely in and around campus late at night, and runs two services. First of these is the public transport option, a plain Jane campus shuttle which runs at designated timings and is free for university fraternity. However there is another option called SafeRide, a privately run fleet of cars, by the university which work like dial a cab, but for free. It is then a no-brainer that saferide is surely the option, as it is ‘on demand’ and also ‘point to point’. No need to walk the last 100 metres or synchronize with the shuttle timings. Not for me, though.

The reliance on private transport, which has led to decline in public transport quality in most cities, is one area where I don’t agree with Americans. And precisely for the same reason I do not use SafeRide, when good public transport(bus) is available why encourage taxis, so what if they are both free. And hence I scoff at most grad students, who in my (voiced) opinion, abuse safride.

I may be correct in theory, but thinking about it in practice, not necessarily so. Firstly both services are hired vehicles that are run by the university. The shuttle is often empty with 4-5 people ( on many occasions I am the only one riding it, of course all others are comfortable in their taxis). So now a 50 seater bus which runs a long distance, for just 1-2 people does not fit within my public transport advocacy framework. A 4 seater cab which operates when called into service, and is often utilised to 50% capacity, is perhaps a better idea.

Despite this, I would still stand by the bus that runs with 1 person, and continue to label SafeRide as an undeserved luxury offered by a rich private university! Am I being an inverse snob, after all ?

Author: harshT

Assistant Professor

2 thoughts on “Inverse Snobbery Revisited : A midnight Rumination!”

  1. Harsh, I have to disagree with you here. You have to think of it as if you’re paying to go to Northwestern. Someone is just footing the bill for you. These are services that the university provides as a part of your tuition and other fees. In addition to that, it’s much safer to take the transportation that’s offered than to walk home alone. Finally, the university pays students who need the money to work at SafeRide, so the more you take SafeRide, the more poor undergraduates you are helping. It’s basically community service. 🙂
    P.S. Call me in January, when it’s -30 degrees and there is some horrible form of precipitation falling from the sky the likes of which you have never seen. I’ll give you the number for SafeRide.

    1. hey Heather – so perhaps you do agree that my attitude towards advocating buses vs safe-ride is of ‘inverse snobbery’

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