Huskie Bus Line is running for the students of NIU

The Huskie Bus System was created as a result of the severe winters in DeKalb. In 1971, the leaders of a newly-formed Student Association held a referendum to determine the attitude of the student body in regard to a busing system and fee. The referendum passed, and each student was assessed a $7 per semester fee for bus service.

The S.A. then worked with the Office of Business Affairs to develop a scope of service proposal. After approval by the Board of Regents, the bidding process was opened to various bus management companies.

American Transit Corporation of St. Louis, Mo., won the first bid. They were one of the few transit companies willing to make the capital investment to supply buses and a building to serve as a base of operations. ATC has held the contract for the last 20 years. It is their task to supply the management and supervision of the system, as well as the buses and a base of operations. The bid for service is reopened every five years, but to date no one has been able to match ATC’s service.

The buses were an instant hit! Students who were used to walking several miles to class were flocking to use the system, creating instant overcrowding. After only six months, students went back to the ballot box and voted 3-1 to raise the busing fee $3 per semester.

For the first 10 years, the system was used solely by students. In 1981, when financing the system became a problem for the students, the SAMTB sought alternate sources of funding. Sect. 18 federal funding was considered but required the cooperation of the city of DeKalb and would result in students losing some control of the system.

The resulting agreement allowed the residents of the city access to the system and a nominal sum of money came directly from the city coffers. This infusion of money into the system helped, however, three years later, the loss of federal revenue and politics between the city and the university caused DeKalb to terminate their participation in the “cooperative” system.

The system currently operates under a tri-part agreement between the city of DeKalb, ATC and the SAMTB. The residents of DeKalb still have access to the system for $.50 a ride or with a semester bus pass for $45.

Currently the system operates on an overload, with constantly overcrowded buses and increased area need, especially with the ever-increasing population in the Greek Row area. Huskie Buses carry over 3 million riders a year, including NIU students, faculty and staff as well as DeKalb and Sycamore residents. Operating on a $1.6 million budget, the system runs 13 buses on 9 routes, seven days a week. The latest figures have shown that Huskie Buses carry even more riders an hour than the CTA. It is a great system, one of only a few student-run university mass transit systems in the nation, and this is something you should be proud to have on your campus.

Today the system is financially stable and self-supporting. New projects are constantly being considered to adapt and expand in response to students needs. The SAMTB controls all policy-making for the system, including Late Night Ride Service, which allows students a free and safe ride home from any location on Friday and Saturday nights. The Board also helps in determining policies for the Freedommobile, which was established to aid in the transportation needs of disabled students.

Because the Huskie Line is directly funded by students fees, I urge any student who has questions or concerns about the service to visit my office on the second floor of the Holmes Student Center. You may also contact me in my office at 753-9922. I also encourage students to voice their opinions at any Mass Transit Board meeting. They are held every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. in the Blackhawk East Conference room. Hope to see you there!! Keep riding the Huskie Buses!!