With high gas prices, and Western’s environmentalist creed on the rise, the Associated Students Board of Directors has come up with an alternative transportation solution that could potentially influence the transportation habits of Western students. On April 5, The Associated Student Board of Directors voted to place a proposed mandatory quarterly fee of $25 dollars on the April 25 Associated Student Board elections ballot. If the proposal is passed by students, bus passes will be issued to all students enrolled in six credits or more, and both late night and early morning bus services will be added.
The proposal, which has been the project of Associated Student Vice President of Campus and Community Services, Kevin McClain, is an effort to increase student’s use of mass transit, and, as the general number of enrolled students continues to increase, to curb the increasing number of students who drive to and park on campus, those students who fuel the also ever rising parking prices—parking prices, which are now at $160.84 dollars annually for students to park in the C-lots on south campus, and at $186.05 dollars for faculty members parking in the more centrally located G-lots.
The fee would also be implemented during summer quarter, though at a reduced rate if the late night/early morning service was not offered. Students enrolled in six credits or more would be required to pay the fee, and increases to the fee would be limited to 5 percent per year unless voted upon otherwise. The fee would have a maximum 5-year term, which would be subject to a vote of renewal close to the term’s expiration, according to McClain’s proposal.
Though Whatcom Transit Authority will continue their daily bus services through Western’s campus and the surrounding community, they would not be providing the late night and early morning services, services that would, at a minimum, run in both directions down Indian Street, to the Lincoln Creek Park and Ride and down Bill McDonald Parkway from when WTA’s services shut off and into the early morning. Instead, Western will draw up a contract available for local privatized transportation services to bid on. The most likely candidate is the Airporter Shuttle/Bellair Charters service, McClain said in early March. The late night and early morning services would run an average of 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, under two drivers a day. The projected cost of this service would come to $169,272 dollars annually, funds that would come from the revenue generated from the $25 dollar quarterly fee. The remaining revenue, of more than $820,000 dollars, would be used to continue the WTA services.
Though WTA will not be providing the late night service, they will be expanding their local routes, particularly throughout the neighborhoods immediately bordering Western, regardless of the election results. WTA will be expanding Route 16, which traditionally runs between campus and the York Neighborhood, adding more bus stops in the York neighborhood. A route running from Bill McDonald Parkway and the Lincoln Creek Park and Ride and through campus will also be added, running twice an hour both clockwise and counterclockwise. All students enrolled at Western can vote for candidates running for the 2007-2008 Associated Student Board of Directors positions, as well as the bus pass fee, on April 25 and April 26.
In search of student transportation habits and their opinions on the proposed $25 bus pass fee on the April 25 ballot, I ventured to the transportation hubs on campus—the C-lots, the bus stops, and the bike racks. I first found myself in the gravel filled, dusty expanse of the C-lots, and a chorale of commuting student’s cars. There, I found Aislynn Davids, a senior, climbing out of her black truck. Davids lives on E. Holly Street downtown, and though she usually walks to campus, she has a parking pass because as an art student she often has large projects to transport to campus. She was in support of the proposed fee.
I next encountered Rebecca Schorr, a junior. With an Audi key in hand, Schorr, a 32nd Street resident, admitted to driving to campus every day because she enjoys being in control of her own transportation. However, Schorr claimed she would vote in favor of the fee, as she sees it benefiting other students. Brittany Zapata, also a daily driver to campus, said she too would be in favor of the fee; Zapata, who lives on Lakeway Drive near Fred Meyer, said she would use the bus pass to drive to the Lincoln Creek Park and Ride and take the bus to campus from there.
I made my way from the C-lots to the Southbound bus stop in front of the Viking Union and the Northbound stop in front of Haggard Hall. Shana Patterson, who commutes to campus daily via bus from her Happy Valley residence, though she owns a car, is also supportive of the campus-wide bus pass, citing its attraction to be the cut back on transportation costs.
Similarly, Kat Finch, a freshman also living on Lakeway, was in favor of the fee. A daily bus commuter, Finch was particularly excited about the proposed late night/early morning service, saying repeatedly, “I really like that idea.”
Finally, I found Lauren Delgadillo, a Senior, locking up her bike outside of Tony’s in Haggard Hall. Residing near the Samish Way Haggen, Delgadillo said she rides her bike to campus almost daily. Though Delgadillo also owns a car in addition to her bike, she is in support of the bill, as she sees a campus-wide bus-pass as, “encouraging alternative transportation and supporting a local service [Whatcom Transit Authority].”