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Paul Bunyan Transit is No Longer Free to Students

Jordan Shearer | Staff Writer | 11-2-2011

There have been many changes to the university over the last year due to its budget cuts.  One of those changes is that students are no longer able to ride the Paul Bunyan Transit service for free.  The cost for a bus pass is now $25 per semester. These are available to be purchased at the information desk in the student union.  Once a pass has been purchased, the student may ride the bus as much as he or she would like.

Vice President Bill Maki was quoted in an article last year regarding the subject. He explained that the school pays around $38,000 per year to have the service and that there were not enough students using it to balance the cost.  Although students are now paying to ride the bus, the school is still making an attempt to keep the price relatively low. According to Erika Bailey-Johnson, the sustainability coordinator, the bus service is still partly subsidized by the green fee that all students pay.

So, how many students need to ride the bus in order to make it “worth it?”  This question is apparently hard to answer since it was difficult to determine the number of students who used the service when it was free. Maki said that the school was “unable to get consistent statistics from Paul Bunyan Transit.” However, he did mention that “328 different students used the service in April 2010.”

Greg Negard, the executive director of Paul Bunyan Transit, provided an explanation for this problem.  He told how the number of students who ride the bus depends on the season.  For example, more people choose to walk if the weather is warmer. Conversely, there will be more people riding the bus during the cold winter months. Therefore, the new cost also helps determine how many people ride the bus.

Bailey-Johnson  commented on this.  She said that although she wishes it could still be free, it seems like a better system than throwing a load of money at the service and not knowing whether or not it actually gets used.

Lauren Olson, a sociology major, thinks a better method for determining these statistics would be  similar to the school’s new printing system.  She said, “they could of had the bus drivers keep track of how many students in general used the bus.”  This way they could have collected exact numbers without having to actually charge the students.  A system like that may even be more accurate.  After all, selling the passes will tell how many students are theoretically riding the bus, but it does not tell how often they use it.

So, is it worth it for students to buy a pass? Obviously, that depends on how much they ride the bus.  Nonetheless, Negard thinks it can still be worth it.  He explained how non-students pays $1.50 per ride, so a student only needs to ride the bus 16.6 times during the course of the semester in order to match the non-student price.  This translates into one or two rides per week.  This is not a problem for some students who ride the bus three to four times a day, especially if they attend classes at both BSU and NTC.  For other students, it is more efficient to pay the individual $1.50.

Several things have also had to change with Paul Bunyan Transit as a result of the change.  For instance, they have changed the hours that they come and go from the school bus stops.  They used to be 7a.m. until 8p.m Monday through Friday.  Since the change, however they have switched their hours with the school to 7p.m. until 8p.m. on Mondays and Fridays, and 7a.m. until 4p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Continuing to discuss the hours, Negard mentioned that “the dial on command has not changed.”