Published: September 29, 2014
By: Eva Gilpin
Transportation Services hopes to alleviate the long lines and shoulder-to-shoulder bus trips with a request for additional funding.
Since the implementation of the University Advancement Fee, transit funding has been held relatively static despite increases in demand, said Kenneth Kimball, assistant director of fiscal affairs and compliance for transportation services.
“Prior to the implementation of the University Advancement Fee, transit was funded by a student fee which allowed funding for the service to increase proportionately as enrollment increased,” Kimball said.
Kimball said even if the request for additional funding is approved, the money would not be added to the budget until Fall 2015. Kimball said the enrollment increases were not available to Transportation Services at the time 2015 funding requests were due, but funding requests for 2016 will factor in enrollment changes.
For now, Transportation Services is waiting on new buses.
“This past spring, 10 new transit buses were ordered and should be delivered in April ’15,” Kimball said. “This will allow us to take five failing, smaller buses out of service and replace them with larger, higher-capacity transit buses.”
Transportation Services has also requested funding to refurbish current buses.
“Research shows refurbished and remanufactured buses perform as well as or better than new buses,” Kimball said. “Since all components are replaced with new ones, they will look and feel new, too.”
If this funding is approved, Kimball said 15,000 and 20,000 hours of service could be added by Fall 2015. However, student drivers are short-handed as of now.
“We have recently raised our starting student driver rate to $9.50 an hour and will reimburse training expenses in order to attract more applicants,” said Madeline Dillard, assistant director of Transportation Services.
Even though Transportation Services is short-staffed, no buses are sitting idle, Dillard said.
"Our drivers do a phenomenal job of taking on extra driving shifts in an effort to keep our system running for our customers," Dillard said.
Dillard said Transportation Services needs student support for its request of additional funding from the University Advancement Fee.
In the meantime, Patrick Slater, bus driver and construction science sophomore, said students can change a few things about their bus routine in order to make transit to campus easier.
"This issue is happening because students who ride the bus all try to get to class around the same time," Slater said. "If students try to space out when they try to get to class, then the buses will run a little more on time."
Slater said he recommends getting on the bus 30-45 minutes before class, instead of 20 minutes before.
"Arrive at stops early in case your expected bus is already full and you have to wait for the next one," Dillard said. "Include walking through the passageway between Wehner and the MSC to your routine to arrive without waiting on a bus."
Dillard said students can also consider alternative transportation options such as using a bike or even bike share.
"As a bus driver I can tell you what I think will be best, but as students who ride the bus, they will have to make the move to help out the situation," Slater said.