For those of you who haven’t seen a PCH commercial, they usually involve the PCH Prize Patrol driving a van up to houses in an undisclosed neighborhood and surprising a lucky person with an obscenely large check and balloons, while Lizzie McGuire’s favorite songs play in the background.
Replace “Prize Patrol” with “DOTS staff,” “driving a van” with “walking” and “house” with “Shuttle-UM bus,” and you have the Department of Transportation Services’ 3 millionth rider celebration, complete with background music.
Freshman psychology major Demi Kleeman was on her way to her Wednesday poetry class when the bus she was riding rolled up to the curb outside Stamp, where 25 DOTS staff members had been waiting for more than an hour for the Shuttle-UM rider meter to hit 3 million.
As Kleeman and the other riders filed off the bus, she was bewildered when DOTS Director David Allen stopped her and presented her with a large, yellow check as confetti fluttered in the wind and DOTS employees blew on paper noisemakers.
“I actually thought the girl in front of me won,” Kleeman said. “I was in shock that it was me, out of all the people at this university.”
For being the 3 millionth person to ride a Shuttle-UM bus this year, Kleeman had the privilege of being serenaded by nationally recognized a cappella group Faux Paz and having $1,076, the university’s estimated cost for a year’s worth of textbooks, added to her student account.
“I’ve never won anything before in my life,” Kleeman said. “I live in the [University] View, and I missed my bus by two minutes — literally just two minutes — and I ran to the Varsity to get on the bus there, so I guess I just got on the right one. ”
For Shuttle-UM and DOTS, 3 million riders is an important milestone. The number of riders has been on the rise in the past several years, with more students opting to leave their cars at home and take the bus.
But why not just have a party? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to pull off, given today’s economy?
Allen said DOTS had some extra money left over from a deal with the PGA to provide backup parking in the event of rain for last year’s PGA Championship. It never actually rained, but DOTS was still given the money and Allen said the department thought of no better way to spend it than to give it to the community.
“We wanted to give something back to one of the riders for helping us get to that milestone,” said Allen.
— Laura Blasey is a Diamondback staff writer