Boundaries of bus system not bountiful for hard at work, fee paying students

By: Audriana Pleas

When students pay tuition each semester there are various amounts of fees that one must pay. Students pay a student life fee, technology fee, and a transportation fee.

The transportation fee contributes to several things like bike racks, the campus shuttle, and call teams that are available to jumpstart your vehicle, unlock your car and even escort you safely on campus. Another part of that transportation fee goes toward the Anchorage People Mover.

Currently there are over 14,000 students registered for the spring semester, not including students who registered late. All students pay a flat $10 fee whether they are part time or full time.

Out of the all the fees students pay, the transportation fee is potentially one of the most useful for students, considering the demographic of our campus. UAA has a large commuter population. UAA students bike, carpool, shuttle and bus to class.

A contractual agreement between UAA, Charter College and Alaska Pacific University, provides a portion of the fee to People Mover.  People Mover then allots students unlimited bus rides, only requiring a valid WolfCard, which doubles as the U-Pass.

Administrators were unable to give a specific amount as to how much the fee is for the People Mover. But even if students only pay 25 to 75 cents out of the $10 fee to the Anchorage People Mover, that is a possible range of $3,500 to $10,500 that is invested into the fund each semester. Meanwhile, adult bus passes only cost about $55 a month. It seems students who actually take advantage of the U-Pass get the better end of the deal.

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But some students avoid the bus service for any number of reasons, including the accessibility of the bus, scheduling conflicts, and the amount of inappropriate behavior that takes place on the buses.

It begs the question: With the current downsizing of bus routes and the elimination of others, is the people mover as accessible to us as our funds are to them?

The busing system operates within the boundaries of south Anchorage, north Birchwood and Peters Creek. But some people still have to go out of their way to get to a bus stop or even commute to a park and ride area to access it.

For example, in Eagle River the only bus that operates to Anchorage is the 102 within a time frame of 6:08 a.m. to 7:12 a.m. The only other option to catch the People Mover Shuttle, but seating availability can be an issue.

Another issue is scheduling. The bus routes are reorganized every year, which can wreak havoc on students’ school schedules.

Since I have been at UAA I have ridden the bus on a regular basis and have experienced the positive and negative effects of transforming bus routes.

Drivers used to arrive in a timely manner but now late arrivals and bad driving has become a nasty trend. Many times buses run behind by 30 minutes behind and may cause someone to miss a connection. Sometimes a driver will blame traffic instead of taking repsonsibility.

Yet another issue is drunks being a mainstay in the transit center, partaking in lewd conduct on the bus, and congregating at the bus stops. It is not rare at all that you see strangers intoxicated riding the bus just to ride it. Besides the safety concerns it arouses, who wants someone breathing heavy on the back of his or her neck reeking of alcohol?

If we are under a contractual agreement there may be other options we can negotiate.  It would be nice if some routes were created with school schedules in mind. And is there something that can be done regarding the drunks on board? As paying consumers, there should be an option of student input because although the fee is not optional, riding the bus is.

Freshman psychology major Coral Lambert, 18, boards the afternoon People Mover bus on its route to the Downtown Transit Center on Jan. 28. Students can ride the bus for free with their Wolfcard.