On Sept. 13 and 14, students will be able to vote on a referendum to increase the transportation fee from $20 to $40 per semester.
The vote, available on ASAP, is a student-led initiative proposed by the Student Government Association (SGA). If the fee is approved, students are told they can expect more routes, less waiting time and larger transit-style buses similar to the ones used by the VIA Metropolitan Transit. If the vote passes, it will go to the UTSA Board of Regents for final approval.
Xavier Johnson, president of the SGA, said, “Parking has always been an issue on campus. The reason the transportation initiative was put to a student vote is because it is the most cost-effective option. Surface spaces are expensive because we are over the aquifer, and the permit rates for parking garages are out of most students’ price range.”
According to the SGA, The current transportation fee was initiated by the “Students for Transportation Reform” in 2007 to pay for the current shuttle system. The initiative was successful, and the shuttle system was separated from the parking and traffic committee.
The fee first showed up on students’ tuition bills in the fall semester of 2008. Since then, shuttle ridership has increased 81 percent from 972,000 in 2008 to 1,625,000 in 2010.
Currently, the shuttle system has two on-campus routes and four off-campus routes that operate on class days from 7 a.m. to 9:55 p.m., Monday-Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 5:55 p.m. on Friday. On-campus route 13 services the East campus lot to and from the Arts Building.
Route 43 serves Lots BS1, BS2, BK3, BK4, and BK5 to and from the Peace Lot. Off-campus route 14 serves Hill Country Place, Broadstone Ranch, and The Highlands; route 20 serves The Outpost and Avalon Place; route 22 serves The Reserve; and route 42 serves High View Place and Maverick Creek. Every Thursday there is a shopping shuttle that makes trips to Wal-Mart, HEB, and the Huebner Oaks Shopping Center from 6:15 to 10:15 p.m.
The student-led transportation committee conducted a survey that asked students about the current shuttle system. According to the results, 68 percent of students surveyed said that the shuttles were overcrowded, 76 percent said they had to wait for a shuttle, 62 percent have been delayed to class, 60 percent would rather have more parking on campus as opposed to shuttles, and 53.7 percent were opposed to an increased fee.
The fee currently covers the costs of operating the shuttle system. This year’s $1.6 million budget pays for all expenses associated with the shuttle system from employee salaries to fuel and repair costs.
The transportation committee considered service approaches to improving the parking situation on campus. The pros and cons of each these options were then weighed to determine which one was best for students.
Option 1 – More Flat Surface Lots
Pros – Most widely supported option among students surveyed and permits would be less expensive than garage permits
Cons – Not feasible due to costs associated with being over an Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and its more cost effective to build up (garages) than out (surface lots).
Option 2 – More Garages
Pros – Garages will eventually be paid off, and they provide cool, covered parking.
Cons – Most expensive option for students at $400-660 per permit, and an estimated cost of $25 thousand per space to build. This option would also raise the cost of all other permits as well.
Option 3 – Alternative Modes of Transportation
Pros – Bikes, scooters, skateboards etc. are the least expensive option and are the most environmentally friendly.
Cons – Not feasible for commuters who live farther, and not everyone can utilize these modes of transportation.
Option 4 – Increased Shuttle Serves
Pros – This option would provide an inexpensive, reliable option and would be environmentally friendly by reducing UTSA’s carbon footprint by reducing the number of vehicles on campus by 600 during peak hours.
The increase shuttle service would also provide additional off-campus routes, improve ADA service, and incorporate more modern transit-style buses.
Cons – Doubles the current transportation fee with small yearly increases of $2 per year.
Some students welcome the increase in shuttle serves such as senior real estate finance and development major Olu Osho.
“I think it’s a good thing if it is going to help increase serves, but I want to wait and see just how good the new serves are before I decide if it is worth it,” she said.
After reviewing an informational pamphlet being handed out to students, senior Philosophy major Aaron Newcomb said, “Ridership may have increased 200 percent in the past few years, but the student population has only increased by about 7 percent. I think the university should rethink its agreement with the local apartment complexes, who make up 77 percent of the main campus shuttle service.”
The SGA also looked into how much students were charged at other institutions in order to compare what is charged for the same type of shuttle system.
At the University of Texas at Austin, students pay $156 per year; at Texas State University students pay $195 per year; and at Texas A&M, students pay $210 per year. If the proposed fee is approved, UTSA students will pay $120 per year.
“After seeing it from a universal perspective and how transportation affects every student, I have come to realize that the shuttle system is a vital asset to the university,” junior German major Marco Guerrero said, “I was one of those students last semester who was completely against the transportation initiative. I was looking at it through a individualistic perspective. Now, I see where we are and where we are headed if we do not fix the transportation situation. In other words, I want to kick myself in the head.”
Guerrero is now chair of the transportation committee and a member of SGA.
“If the fee is not increased, the first routes to go will be the ones servicing the parking lots. If students have any questions they can contact me at [email protected]”
More information on the UTSA Business Auxiliary Service’s Transportation Division can be found on their web page http://www.utsa.edu/auxiliary/transportation.html.