Though the Bobcat Tram Interurban routes were recently canceled, more bus services could be eliminated if a potential student referendum does not pass.
Transportation services officials are asking for the student bus fee to be increased from $78 to $95 for the fall 2014 semester. Nancy Nusbaum, interim director of transportation services, said the department would like students to vote on the bus fee increase through a referendum while Associated Student Government elections occur. Students can expect to a see a drop in bus-service hours, elimination of underutilized routes and other modifications if the referendum does not pass, Nusbaum said.
Bill Nance, vice president for Finance and Support Services, said there will be several implications regarding how many bus routes are offered if students do not pass the referendum.
“We’ll have to sit down and scrutinize which routes around San Marcos are most heavily used, and either shorten or cancel routes to meet demand within available revenue,” Nance said. “It’s absolutely up to students to decide whatever level of service we will provide.”
Nance said the last time the student body voted to increase a charge was about five years ago when the athletics fee was increased by $10.
The proposed $95 fee is based on a report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The report projects the best rate the university can expect to pay under a new bus contract will be 20 percent higher. Texas State’s contract with its current bus provider, First Transit, expires in late August.
The fee increase will cover the costs for a fresh fleet of buses, which will be included in the new contract, while supporting and improving the current services, Nusbaum said.
Students can expect a 17.5 percent increase in service hours if the referendum is passed, in addition to the new fleet of buses costing approximately $13 million. A “point-to-point” service running from The Quad to the Mill Street parking lot would additionally be established, Nusbaum said.
However, a drop in service hours and the elimination of Saturday, night and Wonder World Drive routes are possible if the referendum fails. Nusbaum said the “point-to-point service” would be scrapped. There could be additional modifications such as having fewer buses assigned to each route or less frequent service.
Nusbaum saidmust decide to allow the referendum to be a part of its April election ballot before students can vote on the bus-fee increase. ASG President said the senate will vote on whether the referendum will be put on the ballot after spring break and expects its approval.
McDaniel said students should vote however they want to on the referendum, but if it does not pass, the university will lose up to 20 percent of its core-level tram services.
“That would eliminate routes, which would be doing a disservice to some students,” McDaniel said. “At the end of the day, it’s the students’ money, but I think with San Marcos growing and apartment complexes popping up, we need as much money and buses as we can get.”
Nusbaum said the Board of Regents has authorized the student bus fee to be increased to $95, which is within the $100 cap. However, regents have voted to introduce a bill to the Texas Legislature that would allow the cap to be raised to $150 and be changed to a transportation rather than a bus fee.
Nance said the current tram fee statute requires the proceeds of the expense to support a bus system. However, all institutions in the Texas State University System now agree on changing the bus fee to a transportation expense. The adjusted fee could support modes of alternative transportation such as vans and shuttles.
Adding an extra $50 to the cap would allow transportations services to pursue capital expenditures associated with bus transit, Nusbaum said. Raising the fee to $150 would not happen immediately “by any means,” and depends upon on a student referendum, Nusbaum said.