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GPS system a blatant misuse of student funds

At Tuesday’s State of the Student Body Address, Student Government President Gregory Morgan said the University is in the final stages of a partnership between SG and Parking and Transportation Services to provide GPS tracking for Bull Runner shuttles. 

The system would allow students, faculty and staff to use a computer or cell phone to see where buses are on campus.

Though the exact costs are not known, Morgan said the price of installing the system with NextBus — the probable company — would be significant. In September, the total estimated cost of the proposed system with NextBus was $70,000 for the initial setup and $35,000 in annual maintenance expenses.

One justification given by Morgan for the system is that it will “(make) our campus safer by giving our students an idea of when the next bus will be arriving.”

While one should never downplay the importance of safety on campus, it’s absurd to presume that knowing the approximate location of shuttle buses via cell phone will somehow protect a person from harm. Though it could minimize wait times at bus stops, so could adhering to a bus schedule — and that’d cost well under the $70,000-plus required to operate the GPS system.
In a 2008 interview with the Oracle, Morgan gave more specifics on how the system would improve students’ well-being: “It’s a safety issue at stops like (those on) Sycamore (Drive), where at night there’s not very good lighting, and it’s close to off-campus.”

Perhaps a more sensible and cost-effective solution for remedying low-light conditions is to add more lights.

“This will also help with solving the parking situation around campus because they will have the peace of mind to know that if they park in a lot across campus, they can simply use their mobile phone to see when the next Bull Runner will come and make sure they will not be late for class,” Morgan said during Tuesday’s address.

Though this information may help students decide whether they should wait for the bus or try jogging to class instead, it is difficult to determine whether such a process will benefit the student who is already running late.

Dan Shelnut, SG Interim Funds and Transfer Committee chair, said he thinks the GPS program has potential but is concerned about the level of spending that might be required.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure student fees are spent responsibly,” he said. “Spending more than $100,000 on a GPS is irresponsible.”

Shelnut suggested a more conventional and logical solution to the problem of bus timing irregularities: Develop a bus schedule, and have the buses run on time.