Transportation Dept. Asks Students for Shuttle Funds

Major cutbacks to the campus shuttle program could soon take place if a $20 student fee referendum isn’t passed this year, claims UCSD’s Department of Parking and Transportation.

If approved by the A.S. Council and passed by students later this year, the referendum would create a new parking and transportation fee of $20 per student per quarter. The fee would increase by $5 every year for the next five years, eventually reaching $40 per student per quarter.

According to Director of Transportation Services Brian d’Autremont, the fee would generate $3,000,000 per year for the shuttle service by 2014.

D’Autremont said funds for the shuttles have been dwindling since the department began saving roughly $2,000,000 per year seven years ago to rebuild a deteriorating parking lot at Hillcrest Medical Center in 2019.

Without additional funding, d’Autremont said he would have cut shuttle services by about half — eliminating Metropolitan Transit System Routes 3,10, 150 and 921 and reducing the frequency of the Nobel, Arriba, Mesa and Hillcrest shuttle routes — in order to continue saving for the new parking structure.

The cuts would save $1,238,523 annually and reduce ridership by approximately 730,000 passengers.

“At this point, that’s as far as I’m willing to look,” he said.

Currently, shuttle services are funded almost entirely by revenue from parking permits and citations. Last year, citations generated about $2 million for the department, while permit sales brought in about $5 million.

However, the department’s costs have significantly expanded since 2005, while parking revenue has stayed about the same. Funds from the referendum would bring the department’s overall annual budget to over $24,000,000 by its fourth year.

D’Autremont said an alternative option would be to charge students on a pay-per-ride basis. He said he is hesitant to consider such a move, as it may discourage students from taking the shuttles at all, raising the number of cars on campus.

Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation Sam Corbett said that students at UC Berkeley, UC Merced, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz pay a fee for their campus shuttle services similar to the one d’Autremont has proposed — ranging from $13.13 per quarter at UCSB to $110.66 per quarter at UCSC.

D’Autremont said the referendum would give students an opportunity to participate by appointing students to a board, which would then act in coordination with the Transportation Policy Committee.

He said the members of the board would have control over the shuttle system and be able to decide which shuttle routes to add, eliminate or change, within the given budget.

“I’m kind of an idealist,” he said. “I don’t worry about it at all because I’ve had very good experiences [with student input].”

D’Autremont said the details of the referendum will be left up to the A.S. Council.

A.S. President Utsav Gupta said the language of the referendum is still in its early stages, and that he is concerned about the level of oversight the student board will have.

“If the referendum is providing only 20 percent of the overall budget, is the board also responsible for the other 80 percent coming from Parking and Transportation?” he said. “They might not have that jurisdiction because they only represent a fraction [of the budget].”

Gupta said he is reluctant to support a referendum if it means that revenue from permit sales that currently help fund the shuttle service are redirected toward other university capital projects.

“I would support a referendum that responsibly maintains or expands the service of our shuttle,” Gupta said. “If students put more money toward transportation, they should see some increase in services.”

However, a statement provided by the department said that if the fee referendum passes, parking permit revenue will in fact begin to go toward future capital projects, such as replacing an anging shuttle fleet and a new East Campus parking structure at La Jolla Medical Center.

“We’re generating a long-term agreement for something that is just for a parking structure, so we need to be careful,” he said. “When the parking structure is out of the picture, what happens to the money then?”

Readers can contact Yelena Akopian at [email protected].

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