[IMAGE]HEAT-Bus-full.jpg[/IMAGE]Fall semester service for Greensboro, N.C.’s Higher Education Area Transit (HEAT) buses begins today, but two of the colleges that originally participated in the popular transit program have dropped out, due to budgetary concerns.
When the City of Greensboro’s public transportation division launched HEAT service in August 2006 in partnership with seven local colleges and universities, 80 percent of funding for the program came from a federal Congestion Management and Air Quality grant, 10 percent came from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and the last 10 percent was provided by the partner schools, says Kevin Elwood, strategic information specials for Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA).
Elwood says the city’s goal in introducing HEAT was to serve primarily college students and introduce them to public transportation. “It would also help alleviate congestion and pollution in our roadways and assist the campuses with their parking issues,” he explains.
However, government funding for HEAT was only scheduled to last three years and now that the burden of funding falls exclusively to the cash-strapped educational institutions, Greensboro College and Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) are not renewing the service for the 2009-10 school year. The five schools that did renew the service committed to three more years, through 2012, at an estimated cost of $916,000 per school per year or $15 per full-time student.
As a result of the program change, some stops and routes will be eliminated. However, destinations that will no longer be served by HEAT buses will still be accessible via GTA bus routes.
Students from all seven schools will still be able to access GTA and HEAT services, but for students from the two schools that did not renew, service will no longer be fare-free. Some partner schools were able to incorporate HEAT fares into their campus ID cards, so they can swipe their ID cards through HEAT bus fare boxes. “And for schools that do not have IDs with that capability, we issue fare cards every semester,” Elwood says.
Any updates on transit options for GTCC students will be posted on HEAT’s website, www.rideheat.com.