A Ticket to Ride

It’s no secret that transportation for students in San Diego is sub-par. The buses are consistently unreliable. The Old Town trolley extension to UCSD and University Town Center won’t be built until 2015. And attempts to find parking are futile, partly as a result of a 133-student parking space reduction just last fall.

So for students both on campus and in the surrounding area, the UCSD shuttle system is a godsend. Besides the obvious benefit of being free, the shuttle system has 11 routes with popular stops at Mesa Housing, Hillcrest and Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

As of May 2010, the department faces a $3 million deficit, according to the May 27 UCSD Guardian article “Cost of Parking Permits May Increase.” And now, UCSD’s shuttle system could face a drastic reduction of transportation services or possibly a raise in parking permit fees, according to former A.S. Undergraduate Representative to the Transportation Policy Committee Adam Powers.

According to A.S. President Alyssa Wing, A.S. plans to survey student interest during winter quarter regarding a potential referendum to fund Transportation Services, but if not enough interest is shown, a Transportation Services referendum will likely not show up on the 2012 spring ballot.

Transportation services are not a part of tuition fees. According to Powers, revenue from UCSD’s transportation system solely comes from parking permits and citations. This means students with parking permits (who likely don’t use the shuttles) are funding shuttle service for the students on campus who don’t have cars on campus.

Aside from the possibility of a referendum (which, if passed, wouldn’t be enacted until Fall 2012), the only two solutions that are being considered by Transportation Services are raising prices or reducing services or in the worst case scenario, both.

According to Powers, the most cost-effective method for the transportation service currently is cutting the free MTS bus zone.

MTS buses would still come to campus, but students would be responsible for buying their own bus passes (which is
usually sold for a $72 monthly rate ­— but if the referendum passes, a discounted student bus pass would be available for popular UCSD bus routes) rather than receiving an annual free bus sticker.

The solution lies in the hands of our student body. If students express interest in a referendum that would help fund Transportation Services, then there is the likely possibility that a few extra dollars out of our own pockets could keep the shuttles running and keep the MTS bus zone free, according to Powers.

But it’s not like they haven’t tried this before. A $25 per quarter fee transportation referendum was proposed (and failed) in 2010.

Wing says that this time, A.S. will pursue a new referendum if enough student interest is shown this time around. A.S. would be able to draft a referendum to appear on the 2011-12 spring ballot during elections. If passed, the referendum would go into effect Fall 2012.

All students currently pay for student enrichment resources like UCSD’s athletic facilities and tutoring programs through additional tuition fees, approved by the student body in past referendums.

The $2.65 quarterly fee that would fund UCSD’s concert venue and bar, The Loft, was struck down by A.S. Council in a 15-11 vote in Nov. 2008 according the Nov. 17 article in The Guardian titled “Council Strikes Loft from Fee Referendum.” But for many students, the Loft is a luxury.

The shuttles, on the other hand, are a form of transportation that a significant portion of the student population regularly uses.

Bottom line is that Transportation Services needs funds. They have laid out all their cards on the table while looking for help from A.S.

But due to failures of transportation referendums past, a new referendum won’t come to fruition without strong student support. Alternatively, if a referendum is unsuccessful, and Transportation Services would subsequently have to make drastic cuts, then students would have to accept the fact that they will need to fund their own public transportation expenditures to leave campus.