Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Campus Mobility Stunted

At the end of the Spring quarter of this year, UCR Parking and Transportation Services announced (very, very quietly- I didn't notice) that they were permanently ending ALL campus shuttle service. This makes UCR the only general UC campus without any University-operated shuttle service. Furthermore, their justification for doing so requires some scrutiny.

According to the announcement, the Highlander Hauler shuttle services "did not receive money from the state, the university or student fees." The department made the decision to close down the shuttles due to "the unprecedented impact of the campus budget crisis." But wait... the shuttles were funded entirely by parking fees and fines. Parking fees have gone up, as has enrollment (so I doubt fewer students are parking), and it's unlikely that people have stopped parking illegally in large numbers. The campus budget crisis has been caused by a reduction of state support to the campus- the very pot of money that the department itself acknowledges is not used to fund the shuttle service. This means that the parking fee and fine money that used to fund the shuttle is being re-directed to fund something else entirely.

Of course, I have a theory as to what that might be. At one of the many community meetings I attend, a UCR official noted that the UC does not provide a budget to each campus for parking. Each campus must build and maintain their parking lots out of student fees. The official was lamenting the fact that UCR is running out of land to build surface parking lots on, requiring more expensive parking structures to be built. Even while Parking Services has even more money coming in from raised parking fees, they don't have enough money to pay for the parking structures they think will be required to meet student demand in the future- and so they chose to cancel the shuttle program in order to re-direct that fee money to parking lots.

Obviously, this is counter-productive. Granted, the campus shuttle system did not serve huge distances, with the most popular route running from the dormitories to the University Village. In an ideal world, the trips that this service served would be accomplished by walking, cycling, or the brief use of the RTA 1 or 16. This is not an ideal world, however- this is Riverside. A great number of students already drive from the main campus to the University Village. Some will, of course, switch to one of the modes outlined above- but some will undoubtedly find themselves "needing" to bring a car in order to reach the University Village lectures, causing an even worse impact on campus parking and traffic and- it goes without saying- further environmental degradation.

As a community service, I will be posting up flyers at the old Highlander Hauler stops pointing folks towards their newly-reduced transportation options. I also condemn this action by the University as an example of movement in precisely the wrong direction. Shame on you, TAPS.

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