The Student Government senate discussed the impending possible loss of the U-Pass program, which offers free HARTline (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) trips to the USF community. The contract between Parking and Transportation Services and HARTline will expire Dec. 1.
Members of the administration were in attendance to explain the situation to the senate.Presently, USF students, faculty and staff are able to ride non-express HARTline buses for free with the U-Pass program: Parking and Transportation Services covers their fare, at a special discounted rate of fifty cents per ride. The program costs Parking and Transportation Services approximately $180,000 a year, based on an average of approximately 30,000 rides per month.
The new contract discussed at the senate meeting would see an increase in the cost per ride, from fifty cents to seventy-five cents.
Parking and Transportation Services does not have the money to pay for the increase in cost and is exploring new ways to generate revenue or curtail expenses.
HARTline’s fares will be rising in price across the board in January 2006. The cost to Parking and Transportation is estimated to go up by $92,196 under the new proposed contract with HARTline.
Parking and Transportation Services is also taking a financial hit of $362,434. They receive that money as an annual subsidy from the city of Tampa. This year will be the last fiscal year that USF will be receiving the subsidy.
USF Chief Financial Officer Carl Carlucci, Parking Services Interim Director Manuel Lopez and Assistant Vice President for Campus Business Services Jeff Mack presented the specifics of the situation to the senate and appealed to them for a student perspective on the issue.
Some options mentioned include having riders pay a part of the fare when they board, increasing fees, reducing the number of routes and buses, generating revenue by marketing the BullRunner buses and the possibility of charging a fee to the apartment complexes that have BullRunner shuttle stops.
“We’re going to do whatever we can to serve you, but ultimately we’re responsible for the operation of the system; I can’t actually transfer that power to you,” Carlucci said. “What we would like to do is we would like to be sure that whatever you think are the most viable options get the most examination and the most consideration before we make a recommendation.”
According to HARTline spokeswoman Jill Cappadoro, the last time the HARTline board will meet before the contract expires will be Nov. 7.
The senate will most likely need to make their opinions known to the administration much sooner than that, though, to give a decision the time necessary to be approved by the right decision-making bodies.
The senate also officially named Janelle Craig the new SG marketing director. She was confirmed by a vote of 22 for, 10 against and four abstentions. She will oversee the new SG Marketing Department as it enters into its second year. It has a budget of just over $100,000.
The senate also discussed the interim senate elections, which will be held today and Thursday. There are currently 15 open senate seats, which means the senate is one-fourth empty. The senate was capped at 60 seats last spring. Students can participate in the interim senate elections by visiting www.usf.edu/vote.