SLCC students face a new challenge for the 2010-2011 school year: getting to school. The UTA bus pass, previously free to SLCC students, will now cost $50.
“It’s almost to the point where I could drive for the amount of money the bus pass is going to be,” said SLCC student Steve Bacher. “I’m sad to see it go up like that. I can’t see that UTA really needs that much of a rate increase.”
In May of 2009, UTA decided to renegotiate its contract with SLCC. Since then, the SLCC Student Fee Board has been working to find a way to keep the passes affordable, despite the rate increase. Although still not free, the Student Fee Board was able to subsidize the cost of the bus passes, bring the price down from $50 to $15.
“Going from free to $50 a month is not a good thing. It’s not fair to the students,” said Peter Moosman, Executive Vice President of the Student Senate. “We decided that we had to subsidize something, as much as we could.”
Previously, SLCC had a blanket contract with UTA. SLCC paid UTA a yearly lump sum of roughly $356,000 and then could give out as many bus passes as needed. Students paid only a $4 transportation fee as part of their student fees. Beyond that, there was no additional charge for the bus pass.
“According to [UTA], SLCC students had been using more rides then what was viable for the business,” said Kade Smith, a member of the Student Association Executive Council. “It’s kind of hard to say whether that was correct or not. They weren’t really able to provide accurate data for us.”
UTA is currently offering student passes at $50 per month. SLCC will then subsidize that amount by $35 so that students will only need to pay $15. Semester passes are also available at a subsidized price of $60 per semester.
However, SLCC can only subsidize a limited number of passes.
“We’ve set aside enough money for the fall semester to subsidize about 700 passes and 700 for the spring and I believe about 200 in the summer semester,” said Smith.
Once that funding is gone, students will have to pay the full $50 on their own.
“If travel is a necessity for you, if UTA is a necessity for you, you’ll pay for it,” said Smith. “If it’s not, why would you spend your money to have something that’s just going to sit in your wallet or your purse? And that’s kind of what we came up with the monthly pass and the semester pass.”
For some students, the bus is their only means of transportation to and from school. Other students might only need a pass for a short while due to special circumstances, such as car troubles. With the option of monthly and semester passes, students can buy the pass best suited for their needs.
“It will definitely sift out the casual bus riders,” said Moosman. “Now that it costs money, probably my bus riding will only be in an emergency if my car breaks down or something.”
One advantage of the new system is that it will be easier to see how many students actually need and use the bus pass. To help with this, a UTA Committee was formed. The committee will keep track of how many subsidized passes are sold each month and give suggestions on what should be done in the future.
“We have created a committee to investigate those things throughout the year so that, when it comes time to negotiating again, we can be better prepared,” said Moosman.
The Student Fee Board will reconvene in April to discuss what worked and what didn’t work with the new passes. They will then decide what changes should be made.
“It has not been the most enjoyable situation but we’re just trying to do what’s best for the students,” Smith said.