Students walking around campus may have noticed the new Loop benches popping up in various locations.
The benches serve as both places for the disabled community to wait for the Loop transportation shuttle and as landmarks on campus for Loop shuttle stops.
The Loop is an intra-campus transportation program for disabled students, staff and faculty members. It runs while classes are in session from 7:45 a.m. to 10 p.m., until after most extracurricular activities take place on campus, said Ben Perez, manager of physical access and ADAAG/CBC compliance in Disability Access & Compliance, or DAC, at UC Berkeley. Perez added that it runs on a first-come, first-served basis for anyone that meets the required eligibility and is registered for Loop.
Perez noted that the benches have a degree of uniqueness that makes them stand out from other sitting areas on campus, an intentional design feature intended to clarify that they serve a specific program.
“The purpose of the Loop benches is to address one of the longest running complaints about the program, which is that we’re providing transportation for disabled campus community members and we haven’t had a dedicated place for people to sit while they wait,” Perez said.
So far, there are five benches installed throughout campus, including one near Sather Gate and one near Wheeler Hall. When the project is finished, there will be 37 benches installed throughout campus, each one representing a shuttle stop for the Loop program and a place for Loop riders to wait, Perez noted.
Perez added that the benches will be delivered to UC Berkeley between April 18 and 24 and should all be installed by the end of the month.
Perez said that the DAC is still looking to improve the project and that any feedback from the UC Berkeley community would be helpful. Perez said they do not expect this project will meet everyone’s desires but that it is an attempt at fixing a deficit that has long existed in the Loop program.
“We’ve received some preliminary inquiries from other UC campuses about how we managed completion (of the project),” Perez said. “My understanding is that we are the only campus that offers something that is as flexible as the Loop.”
Alesia Woods, a manager in the UC Berkeley Parking and Transportation department, also wanted to stress the work that Perez put into this project, saying that much credit on the project should be given to him for spearheading funding and getting the project approved.
The department was able to find funding for the project sometime in 2020 or 2021, and after a delay, the benches are finally being installed on campus, according to Perez.
“This is a major feat for us,” Woods said. “To be able to both provide bench seating as well as it being a clear landmark of where the stops are located. I think it’s something that’s welcome by the UC community and particularly the disabled community.”