Students vote money for bus passes
Steve Schell
April 1997

In a non-binding referendum in late March, 58% of students voting said that they would support an increase of $1 per credit hour to fund free bus passes for all students. This is an obvious signal to Student Government to act on the issue of transportation.

Recall last year's Task Force on Parking and Transportation, commissioned by President Lombardi and tasked with finding a solution to the ever-worsening problem of parking and transportation. The task force proposed sweeping changes to the current structure of parking, suggesting that some students be prohibited from purchasing parking decals based upon where they live. Recall also that students, faculty, and staff alike all strongly objected to the proposal. Lombardi received the report and that was the last anyone heard of it (wouldn't it have been easier for Lombardi to have formed the task force and said, "OK, here's the solution I want you to find: build more parking!!!").

With no solution in sight, and with administrators proudly announcing that UF's enrollment would continue to grow in the coming semesters, students who bothered to vote obviously thought that the time had come for a decision. They may have been encouraged somewhat by an advertisement that ran in the Independent Florida Alligator a few times in the days leading up to the election. The ad encouraged a yes vote, saying that without it, the university would likely begin to act on the task force recommendations, and that would be much worse than paying about 12 more dollars per semester for a free bus pass.

When you think about it, you can see the sense in it. Under the current set-up, students are paying for a parking decal (which doesn't guarantee a space) and paying again for a campus bus pass which allows rides on limited coverage shuttles that stop running supposedly at 5:30 (although recently I waited in vain for a commuter bus from 5:10 and never saw one). Add to this the cost of fuel to drive to campus and the extra time needed to ensure parking and catching the shuttle on time. The proposed alternative would cost a mere $12 to $15 per semester, depending upon your course load, and the bus will drop you off very close to the main campus areas, depending on which one you ride. If such a plan is passed by Student Government, it will generate over $1 million for RTS (the City bus system) over the course of a year. With that kind of financial support, RTS will be able to make the needed improvements to routes serving campus, most importantly cutting the waiting time between buses from the current 45 minutes or one hour down to 20 or even 10 minutes.

But that's not all. RTS is hoping to receive additional funding from the state through a program that allows for transit funding from money generated by local gas taxes. This funding will allow the system to add new routes or upgrade the service to existing routes. Taken together with student funding from UF, it results in a greatly improved transit system.

It's been shown time and again that many major universities have similar funding agreements in place with their local transit systems. Some universities even operate their own on-campus bus system with buses running until midnight through the week. UF, with its enrollment barely under 40,000 and growing, is in dire need of transit improvemtents. Current on-campus buses serve only limited areas and certainly don't run late enough in the evening to even get students back to the park-n-ride lot if they have a late class. Buses serving campus from city neighborhoods run at the very least every 30 minutes and also don't run late enough to get anyone home from a late lab. And wouldn't it be nice to be able to ride a bus home from the library at 11:00pm?

SG candidates all seemed to have one goal in common--to be more responsive to the needs of the students, and in so doing, to dispel the notion that SG consists of a bunch of self-serving little snots. Well, here's a chance for them to take a step toward reaching that goal. The referendum passed. It makes sense. SG should act accordingly.

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