Shuttles Face Potential Cuts

Parking and Transportation Services is considering two options to manage its deficit, which is running in the millions of dollars. One option would be to decrease costs by cutting transportation services. The other option would increase revenue by raising the prices of parking permits and citations. According to Parking and Transportation Services, since parking and transportation share one source of income, possible solutions are limited.

“Obviously, nobody wants to pay higher permit prices and, in fact, Transportation Services has noted that when prices get too high, people convert to using public transportation as an alternative,” former Transportation Policy Committee undergraduate representative Adam Powers said. “However, due to the fact that public transportation is currently free, such a switch converts a student from someone who is actively funding the system to someone that is actively using a resource.”

Powers served as the A.S. Undergraduate Representative to the Transportation Policy Committee for the 2010-11 academic year. His term ended Nov. 1.

Last week was the first time the Transportation Services problem was brought to this year’s A.S. Council, although it had been discussed in Spring Quarter 2011. A.S. President Alyssa Wing said she was anticipating the issue coming back.

“[Transportation Services] is trying to save more money than they were [in Spring Quarter 2011], and I think that’s commendable,” Powers said. “I think the student leaders that might be involved in any decisions should feel safe knowing that these kinds of possible cuts to service are far more necessary now than they were previously.”

At this point, Powers said the most cost-effective measure Transportation Services can make is to cut the free MTS bus zone.

“The question going forward is if we are comfortable buying MTS transit passes on an as-needed basis, purely for those who use MTS services, or if we want to voluntarily contribute a smaller amount of money to keep the MTS ‘free’ bus zone available for all students as a default privilege,” Powers said.

Wing plans to include transportation issues and possible solutions on the fall quarter survey to be distributed early in winter quarter in order to get an overall view of student preferences regarding transportation.

“Everyone’s transportation varies, so I think it’s important to gauge students on the whole,” Wing said. “I know it’s a very important resource for students. Last year, I used MTS, so I can relate to that.”

Wing also plans on using Library Walk tabling hours on Wednesday afternoons to talk with students about transportation.

“I also feel that if it is something that’s going to be presented to our council, we will be doing a lot of outreach in college council visits and tours with student organizations,” Wing said. “I am a fan of talking to students and getting that real interaction, but I know I won’t be able to reach all students, so these surveys are [also] important.”
Wing also plans on having A.S. Senators talk to students that attend their office hours about transportation.

If the MTS services are cut, Transportation Services will initiate a student-fee program. This is a quarterly pass that students who use MTS services can buy through Transportation Services at a cheaper rate than the standard city rate.

“A referendum would have to be through A.S., but everyone that has the slightest influence on campus should be having these conversations and thinking about how they want public transportation to be structured in the future,” Powers said.

Powers also notes that even though MTS buses would no longer be a default privilege for all students, MTS buses will still be coming to campus and available for students to use.

“Think about this like Student Legal Services, tutoring, the athletics facilities or S.A.R.C.,” Powers said. “These are things that we all pay for, but not everyone uses, but I would hope that every student would agree that it’s worth paying for in case it is needed.”

Powers urges students to have strong opinions about this by the end of the year. If there is a possibility for a referendum, it will most likely appear on the Spring ballot.

Director of Transportation Services Brian DeMeulle could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Readers can contact Natalie Covate at [email protected]