From March 8-10, students will be able to log on to ASAP to vote for or against the proposed $10 transportation fee increase to improve shuttle services.
If the transportation fee referendum does not pass, reductions will continue to occur in shuttle transportation services.
Even if the fee increase is approved, surrounding apartment complexes will still be required to pay a fee, although Business Auxiliary Services Transportation Services Manager James Strahan said that the fee may be less than the $10,000 currently required. Off-campus complexes that elect not to pay will continue to not receive shuttle services at their location.
Even with the proposed $10 increase, UTSA’s $30 fee will still be one of the lowest transportation fees in the state. Texas State University’s transportation fee is $78 dollars a semester, while the University of Texas students pays $52 a semester. Using an outside service, such as Star Shuttle, would be 37 percent higher at $93/hr than using UTSA services at $68/hr.
Though the revenue from the transportation fee was $1.1 million in the 2010 fiscal year, it was not enough according to Strahan.
“We will have to cut services where they are right now. I cannot maintain the service with the current budget,” Strahan said.
Strahan is currently assembling two budgets for next semester: one based on the current $20 fee and another based on the $30 proposed fee.
Although services have already been reduced, if more reductions are needed, route 41 and 43 may lose a shuttle bus.
“That will be really, really tough,” Strahan said. “There are times when we cannot get everybody on it now.”
Ultimately, it will be up to the Student Transportation Committee to decide where services should be cut if the referendum is not passed.
Ridership has increased 204 percent from 2006 fiscal year the 2010 fiscal year, and is currently at 1.7 million riders. Ridership is projected to increase to 1.9 million in fiscal year 2011 because of the new apartment complexes being constructed that are requesting services.
“If we pass the student transportation fee, we are considering something less than $10,000,” Strahan said.
“Ten-thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money. It is a lot of money, for most of us, but when you consider that a one-bus route is $150,000, and they’re getting shuttle bus service every 15 minutes, it is really a bargain in my opinion.”
Indian Student Association Event Coordinator and Las Colinas Apartments resident, Suhail Jamil said that most off-campus residents in his complex are international students who pay about $9,000 in tuition and fees—three times the cost of a Texas resident student. They are no longer receiving shuttle transportation to get to campus.
“It is not fair for us [off-campus residents] to have to pay more for shuttle service that we are not going to receive,” Jamil said.
Jamil must now walks to campus. Although he has a long lease with a complex that opted not to pay the $10,000 fee, he understands the company’s position.
“It is too much money,” Jamil said. “They went from asking my apartment complex from zero to $10,000.”
However, the apartment complexes had known for a year about the fee the university planned to implement.
Jamil is hopeful that Las Colinas will work out an agreement with UTSA to provide the students with transportation services.
Strahan said that on-campus apartments are not required to pay the fee because they closer to campus.
“The off-campus apartments are generally the ones who carry the heavier weight of the cost to serve. They are the furthest away, and they are the ones who take the most hours to serve,” Strahan said.
UTSA student Anne Vieyra does not agree that the apartments should not receive free shuttle services.
“UTSA is growing and trying to be a top institution. We’re either going to need more parking, more shuttles or both,” Vieyra said.
“I just don’t think a $10 increase is really going to, in the long-term, meet the expectations that we’re going to have. I think we’re kind of low-balling it, and if we’re going to do it, do it right. Growth has a cost. You either do it right, or you don’t do it at all.”
However, College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) Senator Jacob Alford stated that if the proposed fee is more than what the students are willing to pay, the result could lead to a transportation fee referendum not passing.
Alford feels that with thorough explanation about the fees needed to run quality transportation services, students will understand the costs and vote in favor of the $10 increase.