UNT officials are creating a proposal to raise student transportation fees in response to rising enrollment numbers, growing transportation costs and current budget constraints, all of which will possibly be presented to the student body as early as next spring.
Transportation fees currently cost each student $3.50 per credit hour and pay for UNT buses and other transportation services like e-rides. George Steiren and Margarita Venegas, both UNT communications specialists, said the current transportation fee rate has not been changed since its adoption in 2003.
“The price of gas has risen, the cost to maintain buses has risen,” Venegas said. “So we need to figure out what that means in terms of how much to raise [the fee], if it needs to be raised, what kind of services we offer to students, how meaningful they are to students, always keeping in mind the costs we are handing down to students.”
Any transportation fee raise must pass a student vote to take effect. Steiren said researchers aim to propose an increase next spring. If students approve the proposal, the fee would raise the following year, in the spring of 2021.
Rising enrollment totals may increase ridership and place stress on the bus system without a fee raise, Venegas said. According to data released this year, first-time college student enrollment at UNT rose 15.3 percent over last year, increasing the amount of students living on campus.
Budget constraints under the current fee rate led to the reworking and removal of several bus routes in 2018, but the changes allowed buses to run without raising the fee. That same year, UNT renewed their contract with DCTA to operate the buses for 10 more years.
“We’re getting enough information to students so they feel they can make an educated vote about it,” Venegas said. “So they know what it means if the fee increases and what it means if the fee doesn’t increase. [We] definitely do not want to be making it like ‘something will go away,’ but we also have to deal with the realities of what a limited budget means.”
Both representatives said the transportation department will look into new methods of transportation at UNT in spite of fee amounts. The department oversaw the rollout of VeoRide bikeshare programs with 400 new bikes added this year and the adoption of Lyft services.
“There are other kinds of transit options that we want to be able to offer to students,” Venegas said. “We want to be able to provide for our students all the way through, but $3.50 a credit hour keeps us basically at the bare minimum of what we’re doing right now.”
Featured Illustration: Jeselle Farias