The Alternative Transportation Fee referendum is sponsored by Sara Richards and David Burgesser. We emailed Richards to ask some questions about the referendum.

What led you to put this referendum on the ballot?

The Western student body initially voted to enact the Alternative Transportation Fee in 2007 to provide universal student bus passes, a late-night shuttle system, and transportation resources through the Student Transportation Office.
This program has been extremely successful, with 90% percent of fee-paying students participating. As the fee language states, it must be renewed every five years by a vote of the student body.
[This year], 2012, is the fifth year of the program, and students must vote to pass the Alternative Transportation Fee in order to keep their student bus passes and the Western Student Shuttle service.

Why should students support this?

The Alternative Transportation Fee provides numerous benefits to students and the campus as a whole. Western students receive a direct benefit from the fee through the transit services provided by Whatcom Transportation Authority and the Western Student Shuttle.

These services increase students’ mobility during day and evening hours, as well as reduce the need for students to own cars at Western and drive to campus.

Parking demand on campus is already maxed out, and the Western community must do all it can to reduce this demand to avoid inducing the need to fund costly infrastructure.

Furthermore, reducing Western students’ vehicle trips saves a significant amount of carbon emissions and supports the campus’ sustainability goals.

Use of the services provided by the Alternative Transportation Fee has steadily risen since students voted to enact the program in 2007. It is clear that the fee provides significant benefits to both the students and the campus on a daily basis and should be renewed by the student body.

If the referendum passes, will it need funding to implement? If so, how much and where will it come from?

The Alternative Transportation Fee is the funding mechanism for the Student Transportation Program, which provides the student bus passes, Western Student Shuttle and transportation resources for students.

The fee is assessed to all Western students taking six or more credits with the option for those taking fewer than six credits to opt-in to the program.

It is currently set at $25 per quarter during the academic year and will not initially increase with a renewal vote.

Official ATF Referendum language:

“Shall all Western Washington University students taking six or more credits on the Bellingham campus be assessed an Alternative Transportation Fee of up to $25 per quarter with the following conditions: A Whatcom Transportation Authority bus pass for every fee paying student and a late-night student shuttle service that would run after WTA service ends. At a minimum, this service would run in both directions connecting the main campus, downtown and the Lincoln Creek Park and Ride.

If late night service is not offered during summer quarter, students taking summer quarter classes will be charged a reduced fee. Fee increases will be limited to a maximum of 5 percent per year unless approved by the students through a vote. The fee will be for a maximum five-year term subject to a student vote for renewal.”

ATF background information:

The Alternative Transportation Fee was first passed for a five-year term by more than 80 percent of the Western student body in the 2007 AS elections and is up for renewal this year. This fee provides the funding for a universal WTA student bus pass for all fee-paying students, a late-night shuttle service, and trip-planning assistance and transportation resources through the Student Transportation Office.

The program has been a major success since it was enacted five years ago with about 90 percent of students using the services provided.

If the Alternative Transportation Fee were to be rejected by student voters, students would have to individually purchase bus passes from WTA, which would cost roughly $40 per quarter (almost twice what students pay for the fee, which includes other services as well).