Bowlers and karaoke fans alike can leave their keys at home on Wednesday nights and still enjoy a night out thanks to the renewal of a program this fall that gives students free Bill’s Bus rides to Zodo’s and Old Town Tavern.

Isla Vista Community Relations Committee Chair Liz Buda said her group is sponsoring the free rides in order to reduce the amount of drunk drivers on the road.

“It’s a safer way to get there and back,” she said. “It’s really important to prevent drunk driving.”

On Wednesday nights, Bill’s Bus will pick up partygoers in front of Embarcadero Hall and deposit them at either Old Town Tavern or Zodo’s Bowling & Beyond, both of which are located in Goleta. Bill’s Bus offers a similar service on Tuesday through Saturday nights, when the bus drops people off on State Street to hit the downtown bars.

Buda said the free Wednesday night Bill’s Bus rides were successful last year and helped reduce drunk driving. By contrast, she said the amount of Wednesday night riders declined at the end of last spring when Bill’s Bus began charging $5 for a round trip.

Buda said she believes people began driving under the influence rather than paying the $5 round-trip fee to ride the bus. For this reason, she said it was important to renew the free Wednesday night ride program.

As of now, IVCRC – an Associated Students committee, which receives a quarterly $1.50-per-student lock-in fee – pays for the majority of the Wednesday night bus fee, while Old Town Tavern and Zodo’s pay for the remainder.

Buda said that if the bars agree to co-sponsor the bus service, the program should last through the rest of the school year.

As for the rest of the week, students will have to wait longer to see free bus services downtown, which now costs $10 for a round trip.

“First, we’re going to work on it locally,” Buda said. “It’s a lot cheaper to go to Goleta than Santa Barbara. I’m hoping that eventually we can help make the bus trip to State Street cheaper.”

Another improvement to the Wednesday night Bill’s Bus service, Buda said, is that the service will end later. Last year, the last bus left Old Town Tavern and Zodo’s at 2 a.m., right when the bars closed. This year, the last bus will come about a half hour after the bars close to make sure it does not leave anyone behind.

The first bus picks up bar-hoppers in front of Embarcadero Hall at 9:30 p.m.