Transportation fee makes the wheels on the bus go round

Amelia Cooper/Sun Star Reporter
April 10, 2012

In 2005, UAF’s administration faced a choice: increase the cost of parking for students, staff and faculty, or institute a transportation fee to help cover the increasing cost of operating the shuttle buses. As students who reviewed their business office statement know, UAF chose the latter.

At $13 per semester, transportation is the university’s lowest fee. Every student taking four or more credits per semester pays the fee.

The transportation fee, in effect since fall 2005, has never been increased. Revenue from the fee averages approximately $134,000 per year. It was “designed to help pay a portion of the shuttle bus operational costs,” Director of Financial Services Phillip Harrington said in an email interview.

The fee covers about 21 percent of the costs of operating campus shuttle buses, according to Harrington. Revenue from parking permits fund the bulk of campus shuttle expenses.

The shuttles cost about $761,000 to operate annually, according to fiscal reports averaged over the last four years. As auxiliary routes and summer services have been discontinued and reduced, the total cost has remained relatively stable, according to Transportation Manager Sarah Mousseau. She expects those costs to scale upward with the rising costs of fuel, labor and benefits.

“The fee allows students who do not park on campus a way to contribute to the cost of the shuttle they have available to them,” Harrington said.

Dion Torres, a 19-year-old university student, doesn’t use the shuttles. “I don’t [ride the shuttle] just because I live on campus,” he said. “If I do need to go somewhere, usually it would be faster for me to walk.” Torres knows that he pays a fee for the shuttles, and as a resident assistant and a student ambassador he tries to persuade first-year students use the resources available to them.

Jeremy Cannone rides the shuttles about once per day. The 32-year-old theater student has a parking permit as well, but riding the shuttle cuts down on travel time from his parking space to class.

“Usually if I have to ride it’s because I can’t find parking close. I’ll park up at Reichardt or down the hill and take the shuttle,” Cannone said.

During the spring and fall 2011 semester, there was an average of 134,000 rides on the shuttle each semester. A ride is defined as a student riding from one shuttle stop to another. Ridership numbers have increased from 246,000 in 2008 to 283,ooo in 2011.

The university added the transportation fee instead of raising the cost of student parking permits, according to Harrington. The cost of staff and faculty permits increased 25 percent in 2005, and have since increased further. Prices for student parking didn’t change, but now all students pay the $13 transportation fee.

Parking services raised the price of parking tickets in 2010, including meter tickets and handicap parking tickets, and had planned to raise the student transportation fee by $2 per year for three years, according to a Sun Star article from Aug. 30, 2010. Had that plan been put into effect, the fee would be $19 in 2013.

The transportation fee does not go toward the free service students enjoy on borough buses. Until recently, contributions from the chancellor’s office, Administrative Services, and the sustainability fee funded free rides under that program.

Beginning last year, this program is being funded by a federal grant,” Harrington said. On April 9, the Borough Assembly approved the grant, which came from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. It should cover services for three years. 

Active students of UAF can find the fee list detailed in the “Student Account” section of UAOnline. However, this page catalogs only names and numbers, not uses of the individual fees.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *