Though students have been shortchanged by transportation services in recent weeks, things could become much worse if they are not willing to hand over more money to fix the problems.
A recent review by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute led to the administration canceling the Bobcat Interurban Tram services, effective Aug. 26. Commuter students who rely on the interurban services will have to find another way to get to campus.
This unfortunate situation is compounded by the fact transportation services is asking for the student bus fee to be increased from $78 to $95 through a referendum in April. Asking for more money from students who are already strapped for cash is not likely a popular decision, but increasing the bus fee is necessary.
Transportation services is going through a major administrative and operational transformation. Although it is difficult to ask students to pay more money for the same service, not passing the bus fee would trigger a series of negative changes in students’ transportation.
Nancy Nusbaum, interim director of transportation services, said more bus services could be reduced if the department does not receive the necessary money from the fee increase. There could be a drop in service hours and elimination of Saturday, night and Wonder World Drive routes, in addition to other cancelations and modifications.
Nusbaum said the department would like students to vote on the fee increase at the same time as the Associated Student Government elections, according to a Feb. 5 University Star article. Students will vote on the fee increase April 2 and 3.
should allow the student referendum to be a part of the ballot even though some members have expressed displeasure about the group’s lack of involvement in the issue. ASG President expressed his displeasure in a Feb. 3 memorandum sent to administrators. McDaniel said the proposal timeline to increase the bus fee has changed over time “without consultation and in some cases with extremely late notification.” ASG is being used as a “tool to achieve an end instead of as a collaborative partner,” McDaniel wrote.
As the students’ formal representation to the administration, representatives should have absolutely been involved in discussions regarding potential service fee increases. The fact that these changes—which burden students exclusively—took place outside of the transportation committee with student representatives is deplorable. The practice encompasses a communication error and a continued practice of taking advantage of those who are the most vulnerable.
In this case, however, ASG members need to set aside any harbored feelings and put the referendum on the ballot for the good of the campus.
The bus fee increase is necessary for the university’s transportation services to remain operating at a sufficient level. McDaniel states in his memorandum that members of ASG have ideas for a solution, but it is unlikely anything can be accomplished before the date of a referendum. It is important to note the referendum can still be put on the ballot without ASG’s consent, but it is in the students’ best interest to address the issue at the same time the ASG elections are held in order to maximize student input.
It is ultimately the students’ responsibility to make sure the bus fee increase is approved. Paying more money than usual is never enjoyable. However, the bus fee increase is necessary to keep transportation services from being forced to cut some of the important benefits students rely on every day.