SA continues plans for on-campus bus route

By: Pat Boden Reporter

After years in the process, Students’ Association and former SA president Ben Stout are closer than ever and working with the city of Brookings to incorporate the Brookings Area Transit Authority (BATA) bus system on campus, after student’s without vehicles voices were heard needing transportation around town.

   “It’s more of a when it’s going to happen, not if it’s going to happen,” president of SA Caleb Finck said.

  Currently, the BATA bus system works as an “as-needed” system where riders pay a fee per ride, but BATA also works with the disabled community to bring them to and from places around Brookings. Bringing this system to SDSU would add one bus, which would follow route systems to bring students around the campus ring, and a second bus would also make regular stops to bring them to places around town.

 “Ben Stout breathed more life into this [bus system plan] this past year, which was one of his focuses while he was president,” director of transit authority in Brookings, Brenda Schweitzer, said. “The routes would serve some specific areas and as it is now, we wouldn’t change what we have, a circulator route would just be complementary to that. We could move some greater numbers with a circular route.”

   In order to pay for a transit system to reside on campus, SA is looking into raising the General Activity Fee, GAF, which is added on to every student’s credit hour and pays for services and facilities such as athletic game admission, wellness center fees and more.

 “We would pay this through the activity fee, what we’re looking at right now. It’s an overall process to look at all these different avenues to create a strategic plan, so what we’re looking at is a five-year plan to prioritize what we want to spend on,” Finck said. “If we were to move forward with this we have to look at what costs would go with it, which we have to see how they fit into the bigger picture.”

  While some students may see the increase in the GAF unnecessary, others see the overall benefit of having a transportation system that would be available to everybody.

 “Yeah I understand that it would be a good way to pay for it, because it would be like the Wellness Center and can take advantage of it when they want to. It would be much better than having to pay change every time you go on a bus,” sophomore early childhood education major, Kate Allen said. “It would be nice in the winter because you wouldn’t have to worry about walking to class in -42 degree weather.”

 With a number of factors pushing for a transit system at SDSU, one of the greatest factors are the international students, who usually come to campus with no vehicle transportation.

 “Another driving force is the international community, which is expected to grow, and a large number of those students don’t have cars or drivers licenses to get around town,” Finck said. “Having a bus that goes around town would make it much easier for them to commute to their homes and around the city.”

 The Midwest weather can also discourage students without vehicles from getting jobs off campus due to inconveniences.

“The first year I wanted to get a job off campus because I didn’t want to work on campus but not having a car, I opted not to because it would’ve been super inconvenient in the winter to get rides there or not be able to work there in the winter,” Allen said.

Another large pushing factor is getting not only international students around but all students when the cold winter months hit.

“It’s an issue of convenience. Commuter parking is pretty inconvenient and the climate is a big factor in the walking campus. BATA also has an opportunity to become more useful in the community,” former SA president and current co-chair of the transportation committee, Ben Stout said.

Finck agrees with Stout, and further comments on why the bus system would add convenience to the school.

“When it’s cold outside people aren’t going to be walking everywhere, whereas if there was a bus system that could run around town and campus it would allow students to get off campus a little easier,” Finck said.

And in terms of the community, adding the BATA bus system to SDSU “would distinguish us [SDSU] from other communities,” according to Stout. It would benefit not only the school and its students, but the community as well.

“There’s nothing in our general region that has something like this. We would be one of the first schools to implement a transportation service,” Stout said. “It has a potential to serve the community in a way that isn’t available right now. There are a ton of benefits and the more you look at it the more it connects components around campus and it would be a very valuable asset to the university.”

Schweitzer believes that being a Division I school entails a higher level of expectation, which means that the students and the school need to pursue the bus system.

“Being a Division 1 school there’s a higher level of expectation in making it safer and more efficient and better all around.  I truly feel this could open a gateway,” Schweitzer said. “As far as our population, the numbers are growing in use within our BATA system right now. The largest demographics of people we’re serving is in the youth, we move a lot of those little people around.”

According to Stout, The annual report for student’s GAF is underway and will be presented mid-November.

“Our transportation group is in the midst of coming up with a number for the GAF,” Stout said. “The work group has formed a plan of action and we’re working on presenting that to the students for approval.”