Council Holds Off Shuttle Fees

If placed on the ballot and passed by the student body, the referendum would instate a fee of $25 per-undergraduate per-quarter to maintain UCSD’s free public-transportation services.

In the absence of these funds, popular lines like the Nobel and Arriba shuttles — along with a handful of MTS routes — would be cut by 50 percent, according to UCSD Parking and Transportation Services Director Brian d’Autremont.

The council’s vote to postpone the issue came in light of a resolution by the committee that drafted the referendum: Committee members urged the council to reject the fee increase.

According to Transfer Senator Adam Powers, a member of the committee, the reasoning behind the recommendation was that there simply isn’t sufficient need to pass the referendum.

“It’s not that we disapprove of the language, it’s that we’re opposed to the need to run a referendum,” he said. “We did not feel it was proper for us to be placed with this burden without looking properly into alternative shuttle funding.”

Many members of the A.S. Council — including Campuswide Senator Adam Kenworthy — said they believe the Parking and Transportation Department is using scare tactics to win student fees, and that there is little chance of public transit options being shut down.

“I don’t think the buses would actually ever stop running,” Kenworthy said. “I don’t think the chancellor would let that happen, because you can’t have a public university without a convenient means of going to campus.”

Kenworthy said he also believes the proposal is dangerous because it would set a precedent for A.S. Council to raise student fees to help fund any department in need.

“Transportation is a department on campus, and this [would] be the first referendum that does not directly benefit students, and is outside the realm of student affairs,” he said.

Powers agreed about the possible disadvantages of passing such a referendum.

“We’re worried that this could create something more — for example, Student Health Services is in the red as well,” he said. “We don’t want to take the shuttles hostage, but according to our research, there is more that can be done before the students need to reach into their pockets.”

In response to the council’s concerns, d’Autremont said that student referendums are used to fund transportation at all universities with large transportation systems, such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Francisco and UC Irvine.

Despite the arguments that other campuses pay fees for the transportation system, Powers said the committee believes other policy changes could bring in more revenue to fund transportation without turning to student funds.

“We don’t want to play chicken with the administration and we’re taking them at their word that they have no money, but we have brainstormed ways that more revenue could be raised,” he said.

One proposal is to use a tiered parking-permit system to bring in more revenue.

The committee suggests that the department reorganize parking permits with a system that charges lots depending on how proximate they are to campus. For example, the Regents Road East Lot, which requires a shuttle to get to the university, would be a cheaper price than a parking pass for lots along Gilman Drive.

Another proposal suggests that departmental shuttles — such as the Hillcrest and SIO shuttles — should be paid by the department, and that students using the shuttles pay money for bus passes instead of charging an overall student fee.

D’Autremont said that there were factual inaccuracies in the council’s resolution. He said that the university is already using a tiered system, in the case of Horton Hospital and Gilman Drive, and that while the tiered system could potentially bring in $50,000 in revenue, it is insufficient to bring in the $3 million necessary to maintain the current transportation system.

The resolution also suggested a reallocation of registration fees to bring in more revenue, but d’Autremont said that his department has never received funding from registration fees, and instead receives money from Campus Affairs, the Housing and Dining Department and parking permits.

D’Autremont also disagreed with the claim that the referendum is a last-minute attempt, and said that he has worked with three successive A.S. councils over the issue of budget, which he says is being stretched to the limit.

In the past year, the department has moved from 52 to 40 buses while hauling an extra 2,000 people per day.

“We have one of the finest university public transportation systems in the world, but the money has to come from somewhere, and it won’t come from wishful thinking,” he said.

Although d’Autremont said that policy changes would create insufficient revenue, VP Finance & Resources Peter Benesch said the council’s suggestion could bring in nearly the same amount of revenue without creating a student fee.

Gupta will meet with Chancellor Marye Anne Fox next Tuesday to discuss the referendum, and the council will vote on it next Wednesday.

Readers can contact Angela Chen at [email protected].

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