Increase bus route funding

By Kim Randall

Many students rely on the Huskie Bus system to get around campus and DeKalb. That should be well-reflected in every bus route schedule.

Over the past few years, the bus system has seen quite a few changes. Just last semester, many of the bus routes were changed, re-named or extended, but there are still issues with the routes and their schedules.

“Due to declining student enrollment there needed to be changes made to the bus system,” said Brett Williams, Student Association senator and vice-chairman of the Mass Transit Board. “It would have cost too much money to leave the bus schedules and routes as they were, so cuts were made to better suit budget and student needs.”

I understand people in charge of our transportation try to do the best they can, but if there are more changes to come then there needs to be ones made outside of weekday schedules.

I recall students moaning and groaning at having to re-learn the routes we’ve grown so used to. But, some of these route changes haven’t been so bad, especially in regard to some of the better schedules during the day.

I live near Greek Row. While I enjoy having bus route options to get to class, this is only beneficial during the week.

At night and during the weekends, I often find myself feeling almost destitute as the result of service becoming less frequent and more inconsistent.

There should be an equal distribution of buses for night and weekends as there is for Greek Row during weekdays.

“We have a $3.7 million contract with Veolia [Transport], which includes 50 buses,” Williams said. “Next semester will most likely see more changes again with the bus system. The system is never going to be perfect, but we do try and do the best that we can within our budget.”

The No. 7 bus and the No. 11 weekend route buses are prime examples of routes that could be improved by adding more frequent service.

Before last semester’s changes, the 7 ran every half hour, but now runs hourly. The 11 also runs every hour on the hour. These schedules are problematic.

If you have to go to work or fulfill other obligations, you are forced to get to your destination early, walk there or just not go at all if you miss the bus entirely.

Students should have more options to accommodate the time they need to leave at rather than just at one measly time each hour.

“The Huskie Bus system is funded 100 percent through student fees,” said Joe Frascello, SA director of Mass Transit. “… The drop of student enrollment and retention has affected many student resources. There’s just not enough money.”

There may not be enough funding through student fees, but there is certainly some adjustments that can be made to make it all work. There may be fewer students enrolled in the university and on campus during weekends, but that should not be equated with there being less demand. The students who remain on- and off-campus still need to get around in a timely manner. Buses should still run at least every half-hour.

Taking some of the extra service from routes like the 5 or through eliminating route 4 could be of help to get each route operating on fair schedules. This way students won’t have to worry as much as they do now about missing the bus and having to wait another hour for the next.

“The Mass Transit Board and I try our best to accommodate student opinions,” Frascello said. “I encourage students to come out to the bus workshop being held on Tuesday and voice their opinions.”

NIU’s bus system is not terrible by any means, but there are ways to make it more efficient and consistent in providing service to students.

Adjusting the budget to add more buses to routes that are lacking and decreasing over-abundance of service for other routes could be a great start.