Speaking Out

Escort Service at Issue?

Following is an open letter to Thomas M. Seamon, managing director of public safety, which was received by Almanac on August 27 with the notation that it was a somewhat shortened version of a letter sent directly to Mr. Seamon on August 13. His response is further below. Ed.

Dear Mr. Seamon:

Recently I came across an article in the Weekly Press (May 30, 1996, p. 9) reporting your remarks to a gathering of 40th Street area business owners concerning Penn Escort Service, and particularly your plans to discontinue Escort Service to Center City. According to the article, you stated, "We should be encouraging people to live here; instead we're giving them free rides to the competition in Center City and our streets are empty...".

Sir, I was shocked, appalled and outraged by your remarks, on this and other subjects, by their patronizing and flippant tone, and by their air of ignorance and misinformation.

I live in West Philadelphia and use Escort 5-7 times a week. I have been employed at Penn for almost 15 years and find that the Escort Service is the only part of the University that functions well (after its first year or so of poor serviceup to two-hour waits!).

I wait no longer than half an hour; drivers are skilled and courteous; and best of all the service functions until 3 a.m., which is essential to me since I am sometimes on campus as late as 2 a.m. I am also pleased that Escort operates on weekends and holidays without schedule alterations, year in and year out. This is one of the few University functions that accommodates staff and recognizes us as part of the University community.

Both staff and students live in Center City as well as West Philadelphia. It is no business of the University or yourself where we live or why. Perhaps we room with friends or family, own or have inherited property, get a "good deal" from a friendly landlord. Neither you nor the University should be flakking for West Philadelphia real estate brokers. Your only task in this matter is to provide safe, free transportation to students and staff year around within a perimeter of reasonable distance from the University, evenly in at least two directions.

It was irresponsible of you to propose curtailment of University services during the middle of summer, when students and staff are on holiday, and in a journalistic organ not primarily serving the University, but aimed at West Philadelphia.

Mr. Seamon, I ask that you do nothing about Escort until after the school year begins in the falland then only after consulting the entire University community, giving us time to reply.

Students, faculty and staff, whether or not you live in Center City, please call or write Mr. Seamon. Tell him you want to see free, safe, dependable transportation east and west of the city maintained and improved, not curtailed.

And those of you living in or visiting Center City: Use that C van. Support the service by using it.

If I lived in Center City, I should look forward to those long, dark lonely walks across the bridges, past shuttered businesses and "adult" theater marquees. (Public transportation is expensive and stops at about 12:30 a.m. Taxis are twice as expensive as in any other big city on the East Coast, and the drivers are worse than the perps on the streetand they don't know where they're going, either.)

But what would give me a real thrill is the anticipation of the millions of dollars I or my estate would realize from a successful suit against the University when I am severely injured or killed on my way home because the University chose to protect its staff and students unequally.

Thank you for your time.

Frances G. Hoenigswald,
Invoice Clerk, Biddle Law Library

Response to Ms. Hoenigswald

I have stated publicly on a number of occasions that in my opinion, as Managing Director of Public Safety at Penn, the University should reevaluate the extent of its Escort Service to insure it is compatible with the overall strategy of the University. Specifically, I believe that encouraging students to live and shop in Center City by providing free transportation is counterproductive to the goal of making the campus area a more vibrant place to shop, dine, and gather.

It is an accepted principal of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) that urban public areas are safer when there is a heavy, constant flow of pedestrians.

I have never advocated that the entire Penn Escort Service be discontinued. Indeed, if service east of the Schuykill were discontinued it might be desirable to shift resources and increase service in the West Philadelphia area.

I have stated my opinion in the hope that it might lead to a reasoned discussion on campus regarding the future of the Penn Escort Services.

Thomas M. Seamon,
Managing Director, Public Safety


Volume 43 Number 3
September 10, 1996

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