March 9, 2009

Recession hitting university transit services

What has been the most significant impact of the recession on your campus bus operations?


Making a lean operation even more so
California has reduced University of California funding by $16 million, translating to a potential 10 percent budget reduction for our Santa Barbara campus. To survive we must consider service, subsidy and even staffing curtailments in our already very “lean” operation. Still, we continue to do our best with available resources.

Robert Defendini, Director, Transportation and Parking Services
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, Calif.


No new buses despite overcrowding
We are not able to add any buses in spite of record ridership and record overloads. Additionally, we are much more heavily scrutinizing minor maintenance and body work to buses and paratransit vans. Most minor maintenance is now performed by our student preventative maintainers on evening shifts, and buses are only leaving campus for body work if it's moderate to major.

In order to continue to operate the late-night shuttle beyond this semester, on Friday and Saturday nights, we will have to rely on funding from the University’s general fund.
 
Janet Freniere, Transportation Services Administrator
University of Connecticut
Storrs, Conn.


Transportation fees not keeping up
The recession hasn’t really had an impact on our Campus Bus Service yet. The service is supported nearly 100 percent from a student transportation fee that was set 1-3/4 years ago. Enrollment is still very high, so our revenue has been stable for this year. We were very negatively impacted last summer due to the fact that the previously designated transportation fee only was raised 2.8 percent.

Meanwhile, IU’s staff wages went up 3.5 percent, fringe benefits went up an average of 18 percent, and, at the time we established our budget, fuel was up 80 percent and climbing. We had to cut 19 percent of our service. Fortunately, ridership is only down 6 percent because we were selective about what service we cut. Since then, with fuel prices down again, we have had a pretty stable year as far as budget adherence is concerned.

My big concern about the potential impact of the recession is that in the next few months, the level of our transportation fee will be set again for another two years. With all the concern about the impact of the recession and the high cost of a college education, I expect we will get a very low increase, if any at all, and then we will be facing the possibility of even further cuts in service.

Kent McDaniel, Executive Director, Transportation Services
Indiana University
Bloomington, Ind.


Impact has been difficult to ascertain
It’s hard to attribute any changes specifically to the recession since we aggressively market our TDM program on an ongoing basis. Our shuttle ridership has increased steadily over the years. Overall, fall ridership increased about 7 percent from 2006 to 2007, and increased another percent from 2007 to 2008.

Our operating costs have dropped significantly due to the drop in diesel prices, but I never really  know to what the fluctuations in fuel costs should be attributed.

Brodie Hamilton, Director, Parking & Transportation Services
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

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