Torrey Pines Bus Could Be Eliminated

UCSD Parking and Transportation — faced with a $5-million deficit — is considering consolidating various campus shuttle routes, including Hillcrest, Torrey Pines and Campus Loop.

The proposal to combine the Hillcrest/Campus and Hillcrest/Old Town shuttles has drawn concern among students and community residents. The suggestion — which is expected to save $150,000 annually — is among 15 to 20 different solutions UCSD Transportation Services is considering in order to work within its budget constraints.

“Transportation Services currently has a four million to five million annual operating deficit that must be reduced,” Acting Director of Transportation Services Brian DeMeulle said in an email.

According to DeMeulle, funding both the Hillcrest/Campus and Hillcrest/Old Town routes amounts to $850,000 annually.

Approximately 10 members of the public met with UCSD Transportation Services to discuss a proposal to consolidate the two shuttles in an open forum held Nov. 13.

Transportation Services Assistant Director Todd Berven, Supervisor of Shuttle Operations Don Riddle and Training Manager Chuck Quisenberry administered the Monday morning meeting, held at Thornton Hospital. Members of the public in attendance included two graduate students, four staff members and five students.

According to Berven, the Old Town shuttle costs about $150,000 annually to run, which averages $8.44 a ride per person. Comparatively, the Hillcrest shuttle costs an average of $3.67 per trip.

Consolidating the two routes would lower the cost to $3.27 per passenger trip, DeMeulle said.

In order to compensate for the increased amount of passengers, DeMeulle said that the Hillcrest/Old Town routes will have 60-passenger buses. The Old Town shuttles, which currently seat 22 passengers, will be reassigned to other routes.  Berven said that two-thirds of Hillcrest shuttles during 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. would still go directly to campus.

UCSD Parking and Transportation funds the Old Town shuttle through parking citation revenue. The medical center provides half of the funding for the Hillcrest shuttle; the rest is provided by parking citation revenue.

According to Berven, the UC Office of the President requires Transportation Services to use parking citation revenue to fund the shuttle services provided by the university, but funds from parking and transportation currently provide enough to fund only one-third of these programs. Therefore, service changes may take effect as early as April.

“We are also considering consolidating campus loop and getting rid of Torrey Pines [shuttle],” Berven said.

The Transportation Policy Committee — which is comprised of Vice Chancellor of Resource Management Gary Matthews, DeMeulle and approximately five undergraduate and graduate students — plans to discuss the Hillcrest shuttle consolidation proposal at its January meeting, Berven said. Once the proposal goes through the committee for a vote, it will be submitted to Matthews for final approval before its implementation, which is set for April 2, 2012.

At the meeting, graduate student and Hillcrest resident Britt Flaherty suggested providing free bus sticker passes for hospital patients in order to maintain the shuttle’s current route. Flaherty said that people using the Old Town shuttle can use the MTS 10 bus route, which provides a similar route.
 
Although this idea was previously considered, it poses potential conflicts, Quisenberry said.

“Once it changes, it becomes a public transit organization and anyone can ride it,” Quisenberry said. “I know many staff, including myself, prefer to ride UCSD buses.”

The proposed route would add about five to 10 minutes to the campus commute, Berven said.
 
“Our goal is to not inconvenience people coming from Hillcrest,” Riddle said. “We want to utilize our assets in the most efficient way possible.”

Flaherty brought up the idea of students funding these services directly.

“UCSD is a leader of green transportation,” Flaherty said. “If the shuttle services are being cut, shows that this may not be sustainable. We have to be creative — I’m willing to pay for these services.”
Transportation Services wants to work with the community on a solution, but alternatives are limited by the cost of fuel, Quisenberry said.

“A full bus is a good bus,” Quisenberry said. “If it’s not [full], it’s a wasted trip.”

According to DeMeulle, Transportation Services will hold more forums in early January.

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