Beyond The RIDE
With Thanksgiving and winter break fast approaching, Transportation Services and the student-led Finance and Facilities Committee (FiFaC) are aiming to help students with off-campus transportation. Starting next year, the University will run shuttles to Boston and New York City for longer breaks, improve shuttle transportation to the New Haven train station and, by next fall, bring two Zipcars to campus.
Despite University-wide budget cuts, Transportation Services and FiFaC hope to improve the types of transportation available to students.
“We're trying to find creative ways to work with what we have to maximize transportation options,” said Chair of FiFaC Jennifer Liebschutz ’11.
On Sunday, the committee sent out a campus-wide e-mail to gauge interest in running shuttles to New York City and Boston for Thanksgiving break.
“If we get between 30 and 50 people to respond [for each route], then we'll do it,” Liebschutz said. “We're doing a trial run for Thanksgiving Break, and if there's enough interest, we'll do it on other breaks.”
The shuttle would cost about $20 per student for the trial run and would run only one-way. Depending on the number of interested students, the Committee will rent either a 36 or 56-person bus for each route. The shuttle would cost the University nothing, as the $20 per-student fee would cover the cost of renting the bus.
When the Transportation Services Department was created four years ago, its main purpose was to manage the RIDE, a program that provides students with free rides to almost any location on campus seven nights a week. Two years ago, when Peter Pan Bus Lines cut back daily shuttle offerings from Middletown, Transportation Services started running a shuttle to New Haven every Friday and Sunday. This past summer, Peter Pan stopped all service to Middletown, which led Transportation Services and FiFaC to seek new transportation options for students.
“Being the Transportation Department, our focus is on internal events like the nighttime campus shuttle,” said Transportation Services Manager Marcello Curridori. “Now we've expanded for off-campus events, but we can only do so much. Most of our fleet [of vehicles] gets used by athletics and academic departments, so in the future I would like to see some type of public transportation, even if it means something like Peter Pan coming back only three days a week.”
Curridori is currently in talks with several transportation companies about reinstating transportation to New Haven and Hartford, as well as to out-of-state locations. Additionally, Transportation Services and FiFaC are trying to create a contract with Zipcar, a company that allows customers to rent a car for up to 24 hours. Curridori hopes to see two Toyota Priuses on campus by next fall.
Yearly Zipcar membership costs $35 for college students, in addition to approximately $8 per hour or $60 per day rental fees. Middletown residents who are members of the program would also have access to the Zipcars.
“We're working on a plan to find revenue,” Curridori said. “You need to generate $1,500 per car each month or $36,000 per year. Anything beyond that the University would be responsible for subsidizing.”
Curridori contacted other colleges with Zipcar programs, such as Middlebury College and Smith College, and found that during the first year, the program did not generate enough revenue to pay for itself. By the second year, however, the program was usually close to breaking even.
“It's not a program that's going to be effective overnight,” Curridori said. “We're trying to find ways to find funding to cover it, especially during the first year.”
One funding option under consideration is an increase in the current $50 student car registration fee—which, according to Curridori, would not only provide money to subsidize the program but would also encourage students to use Zipcars rather than bring their own cars to campus.
Transportation Services and FiFaC will decide whether or
not to implement the program before March break and, if the program is approved, will begin advertising it shortly thereafter to help ensure a profit for the coming year.
They also plan to improve transportation to New Haven by next semester. FiFaC is looking to outsource the New Haven shuttle to a private company—which would not only prevent time conflicts with the University's fleet but would also, hopefully, create a more flexible transportation schedule for students. The shuttle currently runs only two days a week; beginning next semester, it will run for three.
If a private company ran the shuttle, the cost of the ride could increase from the current $5.00 one-way fee.
“Depending how ridership is, we will either reduce [the schedule] back down to two or keep the three going,” Liebschutz said. “It all depends on the financial viability of the program, because at every meeting, it's being emphasized that money is tight because of the economy.”
Schedules and prices for University-run transportation are available online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/transportation/. Reservations for any shuttle can be made at the Box Office in Usdan.