Off-Campus Shuttles Projected to Make Their Biggest Stop in April

In an effort to reduce costs, a plan was proposed by UCSD Transportation Services to consolidate the Hillcrest/campus and the Hillcrest/Old Town shuttles into one route by April 2012. According to the Assistant Director of Transit Operations, Todd Berven, the shuttles do not have enough riders to remain financially stable — the Old Town shuttle costs UCSD over $8 a person per trip. But this new plan will not only double students’ time to get to school from Hillcrest; it also abruptly disadvantages students mid-year.

The shuttle consolidation affects students who live in Hillcrest, North Park, Mission Hills, City Heights and other neighboring areas — all of whom can’t exactly pick up and move in the middle of the year. When students moved to Hillcrest, an area neighboring downtown San Diego, they chose their location with the knowledge that there would be public transportation to campus. Therefore, to avoid the high prices of parking permits and gas-guzzling search for parking, these students are dependent on the shuttle system.  

The current commute is about 20 minutes on the bus, according to Muir College senior Nena Eichelberger, but with the new transportation system a trip could take up to an hour in La Jolla traffic. Combined with a 133-student parking space reduction last fall and the climbing cost of parking permits to $732 annually, this consolidation further compounds the already existing disadvantages of public transportation. And, despite the fact that the two routes are merging, the buses will not arrive more frequently — further limiting time flexibility and increasing crowding. The last bus arrives at 9 p.m., which ignores the possibility of late night classes and club meetings. If UCSD consolidates the two shuttle routes, the buses need to arrive more frequently and run until a later time.

Ramin Hashemi, a senior who depends on the shuttle system, started a Facebook campaign and petition to save the route in response to student frustration. Students also attended meetings about the shuttle consolation this week to contribute their ideas. Students should use the student representatives in the Transportation Policy Committee as a resource to get more information and get more involved. It is important that students support the cause and voice their opinions, since student passengers dominate the Hillcrest/campus route.

While the reduction of the shuttle route may be inevitable, UCSD should at least let students finish out the year with the two bus routes so that they have the summer to figure out their living and transportation situation. Inevitably, cuts will be made, whether it be funds from MTS shuttles, elimination of campus loop or increasing fees in other areas. UCSD can take other actions, such as imposing a $25-per-quarter transportation fee, a proposal that failed in 2010.
Currently, it costs UCSD about $3 a person per trip on the Hillcrest shuttle, a trip funded by revenues from on-campus drivers though the purchase of parking passes. As a last-ditch effort, UCSD could look to further increasing the price of parking permits.

For students with cars, keeping the shuttles could mean more fees and higher permit costs. But if students without cars lose the shuttles, they will have to move from Hillcrest to a more expensive and more local residence in areas like UTC. Whatever changes are made, students should have ample time to prepare for changes made.