At the Tiger Trails feedback forums Tuesday, students expressed a need for increased service on the Ben Hur/Burbank bus route and explored possibilities of increased night services to Ben Hur Road and additional late night service to areas like Tigerland on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Mitch Skyer, president of the Solstice Transportation Group that evaluated the bus system in 2008, also probed students’ opinions on the technology currently utilized, weekend service options, additional weekday shuttles, ideas for more service or different areas of service, peak times for additional service and feedback about drivers.
Gary Graham, the director of the Office of Parking, Traffic and Transportation, said the bottom line for student feedback is to determine what services students are looking for and what they are willing to pay for those services.
“What we design and what we do is directed toward making the system work for you,” Graham said.
Skyer said the goal of the forums is not only to determine what students need from the bus service, but also to help formulate survey questions to be sent to the rest of the student population in February.
Student Government Vice President Carrie Hebert said some students are not so much concerned with the amount of buses but how closely they follow one another.
Andrew David, SG Chief of Staff, said the proximity of bus stops is an issue that caused him to stop taking the bus because his closest stop is a quarter-mile walk from where he lives.
SG President Taylor Cox expressed concern for the transit system’s ability to evaluate and adapt to student population growth in developing residential areas.
Graham said his office has worked with SG over the past few years to address changes in areas like Ben Hur that didn’t exist five years ago during the initial evaluation.
Skyer said the new plan for the transit system will try to anticipate future student needs based on residential population growth in certain areas but suggested exploring the option of imposing incremental student fees to accommodate for student population growth in developing residential complexes.
Cox also said their Thursday, Friday and Saturday late night services are needed.
“I would like to see something like that implemented on the survey because my guess would be that if I am a student and I go out on the weekends and I have more opportunity for a safe ride, I’m willing to pay more of my money for that safe ride,” Cox said.
Skyer said the survey will include questions that address each issue and will focus on how much students would value additional services in terms of cost.
Full-time students currently pay a $66 fee for transportation services but expanding some services under the next contract could impact the student fee, Skyer said.
The evaluation report, which is expected to be complete by the end of March, will be the result of ideas expressed in the forums, data collected about the current system, reviews of existing routes, ridership evaluation, and an evaluation of developing student living areas, Graham said.
Graham said the University’s five-year contract with First Transit ends in August 2013 , so the decisions made based on the evaluation will be implemented next year under a new contract that will go to the lowest responsive bidder.
“A lot of what we are doing with Solstice is to look at the next generation contract right now,” Graham said.
Skyer said the University has a good system with First Transit based on what he has seen at other schools.
“The foundation is very strong so the improvements we make should really give you an opportunity to try new things and think about new options for your service,” Skyer said.