With the ceremonial break of a champagne bottle, the new Huskie Buses were given the green light for operation.
NIU graduate Susan Haas broke the bottle after a group of NIU officials and student leaders had taken a maiden voyage on one of the buses during Wednesday’s christening ceremony.
Haas, who was one of the first people to take the initiative on acquiring the handicapped-accessible buses, demonstrated how the handicapped equipment worked via her wheelchair.
Participants were then given a ride around campus and downtown DeKalb.
“I was impressed,” Haas said. “I haven’t been on a bus since I was seven. Riding a bus is a just a novelty.”
Six new buses will be in operation today, three more next year and four more the following year to complete the 13-bus Huskie fleet 1994.
The buses comply with the American Disability Act requiring all buses to have handicapped-accessible lifts by 1996.
One new bus will be used for each of the bus routes, making each route wheelchair accessible.
Pat Sanchez, Student Associaton Mass Transit Adviser, said the six buses cost about $1 million and were paid for entirely by student fees. An individual bus cost $173,000, said Charlie Batista, Huskie Line general manager. The lift option cost $20,000, Batista added.
The new buses should last approximately 20 years.
“We will really be in a position to carry on service to the maximum level that this campus needs in order for the campus and the community of DeKalb and Sycamore to grow,” Sanchez said.
A reception at the Holmes Student Center’s Heritage Room followed the ceremony, where NIU and community leaders spoke about the buses.
“We’ve taken a giant step here today in introducing this service,” NIU President John La Tourette said.
“What we’ve done here at NIU is not only to comply with the law, but to do the right thing and to do it on a timely basis,” La Tourette said.
Haas said she began her efforts to get the new buses in 1987, but money was a big obstacle back then.
“I was hoping Northern would try to be on the front lines and get someting started ahead of eveyone else,” she said.
“‘88 really got them going, because they have to be in compliance by ’96,” Haas said. “They’re way ahead of what they have to be, which impresses me.”
“It’s been a long ride,” Haas said. “We want the same as everyone else.”