The Main Point: Austin, San Antonio commuters abandoned by cutting interurban trams
Texas State commuters will effectively be thrown under the bus this fall when the Bobcat Tram Interurban routes become a thing of the past.
A recent review by a Texas A&M transit institute led transportation services officials to, beginning Aug. 26, discontinue the interurban tram, according to a Feb. 5 University Star article. These routes cover the Kyle, Austin, New Braunfels and San Antonio areas and are frequented by students who cannot get to campus any other way.
Alejandro Cuevas, finance junior, said in the same article he depends on the interurban services to get him to campus. Students like Cuevas who utilize these services will have to make a potentially life-altering decision in the next few months. These students are going to be put in the unfortunate situation of deciding whether it is possible to complete the degrees they have worked toward.
Some commuters chose Texas State over other colleges because of the interurban tram services. The interurban buses have become a safety net for students who wake up at the crack of dawn to get to their classes on time. It is suspicious that transportation services officials would conduct a survey in November and then three months later announce the cancelation of the service that was promised to these students.
The surveys were given in a questionable manner, administered at the end of November or December when the buses were largely empty because of finals. One-fourth of the riders questioned said they might not be able to stay at Texas State next semester as a result of the interurban service cancelation, as indicated by the survey. This statistic alone is sufficient evidence that the service should not be cancelled.
Texas State officials are disadvantaging some of the most vulnerable students with this decision—commuters. Many commuters are non-traditional students who specifically chose Texas State over other universities in the area. It seems as though officials are more concerned about saving money and allotting more buses on San Marcos routes during peak hours than catering to student commuters who are just as valuable.
Transportation services officials are asking students to pass a referendum that would hike the bus fee up from $78 to $95 per semester for fall 2014 on top of the interurban service cancelation. The “point-to-point” service from The Quad to the Mill Street parking lot will help alleviate the overcrowding that will be further perpetuated by the increase in passengers, but at too high a price.
Students deserved to be notified at least one to two years in advance of this cancellation. Commuters with years left in their degree plans made the decision to come to Texas State under the impression that this service would continue.
Students were told about the bus fee increase a year and a half before it will actually take place. It seems ridiculous that commuters only received about six months’ notice to find a new way to reach campus. Some do not have a vehicle and may have to take on new student loans or jobs to purchase one if they are unable to carpool. Others may have a vehicle but should not have to pay for both gas and a more expensive commuter parking permit if they were advertised the interurban service from the start.
Transportation officials would not have entered panic mode with proper planning and could possibly have avoided giving the boot to the entire interurban service. The way in which the interurban service was canceled is shameful. It may force some students to withdraw from Texas State. Reducing commuter bus transport only to campus and surrounding lots diminishes the university’s core mission of education and will drive students away from Texas State.