3 comments

  • I’m deeply disappointed in Rick Nicholson’s response to The Western Front. Passive-aggressively blaming students for the overcrowded buses instead of fixing their inefficient service is incredibly bad form.

    Buses to WWU are often filled to capacity, while the average WTA fixed route bus serves fewer than 3 passengers per mile, according to their annual budget. This is not much better than a carpool, showing that WTA is not effectively distributing their fleet around the county.

    Nicholson claims that students don’t pay for WTA’s operation, only for the bus pass. However, we do pay for WTA’s operation, as much as any other Whatcom county residents. We deserve to be treated as valued customers rather than as an inconvenience.

    The student transportation fee per quarter is $26.25 and there were 15,900 students enrolled in 2017.

    WWU gives WTA 75% of the transportation fee. Assuming that 90% of students were enrolled for 6+ credits per quarter, about $845,000 was given to WTA last year directly from students’ pockets whether they ride the bus or not.

    WTA’s primary income comes from a 0.6% sales tax in their Whatcom county service area. Sales tax is a flat tax which has a larger proportional impact on low income people, like students.

    The 15,900 students enrolled at WWU are equivalent to about 8% of Whatcom county residents who would pay this tax, making the student population a sizable stakeholder in WTA’s service. This does not include WWU faculty and staff that also use the bus to commute to work and have to deal with the same overcowded conditions and unreliable service.

    In addition, WWU’s Parking Services pays nearly $200,000 per year as part of a lease-purchase agreement with WTA for the Lincoln Creek Park & Ride. As Parking Services receives no state funding, this payment is made using the funds students pay for parking permits.

    I have also witnessed the risky practice of overfilling buses past the safety line, as described in this article. This happens frequently at the park and ride. I have also been late to class because the buses were full. If this is as rare as Nicholson claims, why do so many people I know have similar experiences?

    Western students pay the WTA three different ways, whether or not they need to ride the bus. In return, they get unreliable and unsafe service.

    Maybe WTA doesn’t realize that Western is growing and has more students than ever before? That would explain why Nicholson is surprised that more students are using the bus service that they pay for and are entitled to use. I guess the director of service development should pay more attention to the people using his service.

  • Reminder: “Round Table” discussions about the changes and seeking community feedback happened during the summer when many students, faculty, and many staff were not on campus/in the area. I am including WWU, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College, and Northwest Indian College. This was brought to the attention of WTA by several of us who ride the busses.

  • When I was a student even ~5 years ago riding the bus to/from/through campus was almost intolerable. I often skipped it at great expense of time (since I didn’t have a car and therefore had to walk from York neighborhood). Some people have anxiety disorders, claustrophobia, agoraphobia… essentially leaving the bus situation as it is makes the bus system inaccessible to these folks.

    Intra-campus shuttles could be an option. It isn’t exactly set up ideally for it, but the University already has hella work trucks driving across campus all hours of the day. But if students from North Campus neighborhood could walk to the VU and catch a shuttle to Fairhaven, say, that seems like that could lessen the public bus crowding. (Because the bus crowding also affects members of the community whose bus routes cut through the college, and whose tax money actually pays for the lion’s share of WTA’s operating revenues, and who WTA was originally set up for in the first place!!)

    I am personally disabled and I don’t relate to Kaylee Martig’s concerns. Those of us with invisible disabilities are impacted by people riding the bus less than a half goddamn mile and creating the preposterous crowding conditions on buses, and it’s a pretty fixed equation. Bus crowding could be written as = bus riders / (bus capacity * frequency). If you want to reduce bus crowding, which disabled people need, then either you need to reduce the aggregate number of riders, or increase bus capacity and/or frequency. One makes for a lot of angry privileged students, one costs somebody a lot of money. Either one kind of sucks, but again, the bus is literally being made inaccessible to students who need it because of this issue.

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