Getting around campus might soon take a bit longer as Parking and Transportation Services looks to cut down bus routes and rein in a budget deficit.
The University of Nevada, Reno’s, PACKTransit shuttle system is in debt by more than half a million dollars, and is projected to lose another half million per year with the current routes — even with funding from parking and bus pass sales.
Speaking during an Associated Students of the University of Nevada Senate meeting, Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation Michelle Horton said the shuttle system is no longer financially self-sustainable and that her department plans to possibly extend its route by charging students a semester fee starting next fall.
“This is a problem because those funds should instead be used to maintain parking lots, roadways and garages,” Horton said. “Parking and Transportation Services is a self-funded operation, which means it does not receive any state appropriations to provide its services or maintain its assets.”
PACKTransit ferries riders with two service lines to various locations both on and off campus. The Blue Line, which services the west side of campus, runs from the north parking areas to the south end of campus via West Stadium Way and N. Virginia Street. The Silver Line transports riders to and from off-campus housing in the north, near McCarran Boulevard, to Fleischmann Agriculture in the south.
During the senate meeting, a basic plan was presented that looked to decrease costs by $385,000. The basic service would operate on a service schedule that would begin at 8:00 a.m. and conclude at 4:30 p.m. five days a week. Buses would be routed along one large 30-minute loop that would stop operating during spring, summer and winter breaks. The system would also decrease the number of active buses from four to two, increasing wait times from six minutes to 15.
Parking and Transportation also presented a second plan based on recommendations from the ASUN senate dating back to last year. Both at the time and at the most recent meeting, some senators expressed concern that the new basic service might be unpopular, and instead suggested PACKTransit run both an extended route and a shorter express route.
The alternative extended route would run Monday through Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Fridays from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Two buses would operate on the main line with a total of nine stops while only one would function on the express line with six stops. Wait times would slightly decrease to an approximate nine-minute wait time and still would not run during the spring, summer and winter breaks.
However, this alternative service would add an additional $250,000 to the costs of the routes PACKTransit currently operates. In order to support the increase, students would be charged a fee of $12 per semester, contract costs with apartment complexes north of campus would need to be increased, and Parking and Transportation would still have to subsidize the program. In fact, the department has already planned on renewing one of their apartment complex contracts this year and increasing that cost by 10 percent.
In addition to the route changes, PACKTransit hopes to bring new technology to the busing system.
Dan Anthonijsz, shuttle supervisor for Parking and Transportation, said PACKTransit plans to partner with Campus Escort to install a GPS tracking feature on the buses for student convenience.
“I think the GPS would be a great feature for the buses, because often times I wonder where the next bus is when trying to decide whether or not to just walk home, or it would allow me to wait in the closest building to a stop and just come out when the bus is close,” Jessica Brown, a frequent user of PACKTransit said. “I don’t think they should charge students for this though because for one not all students would necessarily need to take advantage of the new route they’re proposing so it’s not fair to make them pay for something they don’t use.”
PACKTranist has requested ASUN draft a resolution to be presented to the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents. Approval from the Graduate Student Association would also be required.
If all goes according to plan, the semester fee would not be applied immediately and PACKTransit would continue to be funded by subsidies for about one year.
Karolina Rivas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @karolinarrivas.