Bus fee increase requested

By Ken Goze

The Student Associaton Mass Transit Board, faced with increased operating costs and a nearly $48,000 deficit, has requested a 23 percent increase in the bus fee, from $2.42 to $2.98 per credit hour.

SAMBT Adviser Dave Pack said the board’s main reason for the increase is the elimination of the deficit created last year by an underestimation of chargeable credit hours. In addition, the board is faced with a nearly $62,000 increase in expenses for fiscal year 1991, Pack said.

Because of the deficit, increased costs, and other expenses such as a $3,000 repair bill for the Handivan, which provides transportation for the disabled, SAMBT is hoping to save money in other areas, such as the 7-9 route combination, Pack said.

“It’s worked out really well,” Pack said, referring to the 7-9 combination, which went into effect last Tuesday. Although some people called Pack to protest the move, he said most of the responses so far have been positive.

“We felt we could serve more students by combinig the routes,” Pack said, adding the combination allows hourly, 9-to-5 service to Sycamore.

The combination has taken one of the sytem’s 14 busses out of service, which could save the board as much as $8,500 over the semester. However, Pack said the bus might be added to route 4 serving the residence halls during cold weather.

Busing Graduate Assistant Cyro Gazola said the higher bus fee, if approved by the President’s Fee Study Committee, will be the first significant increase in the face of rapidly rising operating costs.

“Over the last three years (fiscal years 1987 to 1990), we’ve had expenses increase over 17 percent, with only a 3.8 percent increase in fee revenue. How can anyone continue to operate a budget like this?,” Gazola said. The bus fee was increased from $2.33 to $2.42 last year.

Gazola said the increase is also needed because of projected declines in enrollment and chargeable credit hours. Student fee-suported groups are facing a projected decline of almost 6,000 chargeable hours for fiscal year 1991.

Other options being considered by SAMBT for cutting costs, such as alternating routes after ridership drops off at night. Pack said one proposal would have a bus alternate between two routes after 9 p.m.

Pack said he is also forming a long-range planning committee to update ridership and measure student population along the routes, most of which have not been changed since the bus system started in 1971.

Although SAMBT has considered charging user fees for support systems such as the Late Night Ride service, the idea was dropped because of fears charging fares would reduce ridership. “I’d like to see that it doesn’t turn into a taxi. The Late Night Ride service is for a safe ride home,” Pack said.