The Ultimate Cliffhanger

Zachary Watson/Guardian

It’s money-huntin’ season again — that time of the year when a handful of broke organizations try their best to throw themselves onto the A.S. Council’s election ballot, in hopes the student body might vote to fund them come springtime.

This year, in an attempt to subsidize shuttle service costs, the Parking and Transportation Department asked A.S. Council to run a referendum on its Spring Quarter ballot that would require each student to pay a $25-per-quarter fee. Although A.S. Council put off its decision on the issue last night (what else is new?), the special committee created to review the proposal recommended that Parking and Transportation look elsewhere for a bailout — a gutsy move that we didn’t seen coming.

Though councilmembers are definitely brave for standing up to the department — and dodging yet another fiscal demand from above — that doesn’t change the fact that we could potentially have a transportation crisis on our hands next year.

Parking and Transportation director Brian d’Autremont has been very upfront about the cuts he’ll have to make if the department can’t find a way to supplement its expenses.

In October of last year, he said that, if the referendum didn’t pass, he’d be forced to halve shuttle services — eliminating Metropolitan Transit System Routes 3, 10, 150 and 921, and reducing the frequency of the Nobel, Arriba, Mesa and Hillcrest shuttle routes.

He’s positive this is the last resort, and keeps reminding us that we’re the only UC campus whose students don’t pay a transportation fee. But that point is moot when you consider that our intercollegiate activity fee is $118 per quarter, while Berkeley’s rough equivalent is $28 per semester. Each campus has its own history of bailouts and buffers. It’s not necessarily applicable to point a finger at other campuses and say, “but they’re doing it!”

So now, one of two things will happen: 1) Parking and Transportation Services will crawl up to some administrator’s doorstep with one helluva puppy-dog face and guilt them into scrounging up some emergency funds, or 2) shuttle services will, in fact, be cut, and fitting onto overcrowded shuttles next year will be a yearlong lesson in acro-yoga.

The council is right to think an administrative bailout is still a possibility, especially since encouraging sustainable transportation to campus is UCSD’s most crucial bullet point on its list of green bragging rights. And we all know how much Chancellor Marye Anne Fox loves her green bragging rights.

Not to mention, if word gets out to prospective students that we’ve got a shitty public-transportation system, it might actually hurt UCSD’s allure. It’s a shame, really — just when the Loft was starting to redeem our infamous “socially dead” suffix.

Oh right, the Loft: There’s an example of a university-born business that claimed it couldn’t go on without our help. Weird — it miraculously survived when A.S. Council refused to place it on the ballot last year. Guess Loft director Martin Wollensen has some extra-pitiful puppy eyes.

In recommending that A.S. Council reject the transportation referendum, the committee tasked with writing the document also sent along some suggestions they’d like to see enacted before Parking and Transportation asks it to reconsider.

Though we appreciate many of the committee’s suggestions, they might not be enough to fill the financial gap d’Autremont’s dealing with. He’s already shot down their idea of instituting tiered parking permits, arguing that Parking and Transportation already (sort of) does that and, besides, it wouldn’t earn him enough to make a difference anyway.

As for asking for funding from registration fees, it’s probably a long shot, but we might as well try.

However, A.S. Council’s recommendation to cut all MTS lines before attacking UCSD shuttles is not only outrageous, but telling of the tiny University Towne Center bubble in which many councilmembers live. Cutting off our outer-city lifelines will not only isolate us further from our surrounding community, but also eliminate a valuable service for all those who can’t afford to live on campus or in its expensive condo foregrounds.

In the end, we won’t know until next year if the university’s pride — or our own — will sabotage transportation at UCSD, but it’s worth it to find out the hard way. In the meantime, d’Autremont better be practicing his pout.