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Friday, May 14, 2021

Frontline: Fixing the bus system is a group effort

Students are being left out in the cold due to the Whatcom Transportation Authority’s route changes. Those who rely on the bus system hold mixed feelings over the revisions implemented on March 19.

Drawing from their Strategic Plan, a two-year planning process, the WTA’s overarching goal was to make changes based on population growth and need-based areas.

Keeping Western in mind
specifically, the WTA worked to consolidate and simplify the routes for students on their way to
campus. These changes have left riders confused and frustrated.

The WTA recognizes the
important role it plays in getting students and faculty to Western’s campus, as outlined in the introductory pages of their Strategic Plan.

Approximately 40 percent of WTA’s ridership is made up of Western students depending on their services. Not to say the WTA must cater exclusively to students, but they should continue to work to support their two million annual riders.

The Alternative Transportation Fee was passed in 2007. This fee pays for the student bus passes and has made the transit system a more popular option. Since the fee was passed, WTA fixed-route ridership has doubled. This shows that students are worth investing in.

The point of the fee is to give students access to convenient and sustainable transportation options. That goal of sustainability is called into question when large points of rider congestion stems from stops at the bottom of Sehome Hill.

Responsibility falls on us as students as well. The WTA has responded to concerns by sending out employees to observe how the new routes are working, but students living walking-distance to campus have the power to ease up on these strains. Walk when you can, and leave earlier.

The WTA’s efforts need to be focused on those living in neighborhoods farther away. Routes don’t need to be added to give more access to those living in the NXNW apartment complex. Residents have their own shuttle operating every half an hour. The WTA doesn’t lose money from those students; their pass fee is already paid for in
tuition. 

Work instead to help students, for example, living in the York district who lost their main route from campus. As they walk to the next stop on Magnolia, students have to watch as already full buses pass by.   

Western puts a large emphasis on the bus system and promotes it to prospective students. If the university is going to endorse this system, it needs to work. Students need reliable transportation to and from campus.

A goal derived from the original Alternative Transportation Fee proposition was to reduce students’ needs for a car and lessen the demand for student parking.

As seen from the yearly overselling of parking passes which prompt daily difficulties finding on-campus parking spaces, driving to class isn’t really a viable option. Parking passes are also an expensive luxury many students can’t afford.

Buses are meant to be a convenient alternative for students. Paired with the inability to park, our bus routes are becoming the opposite of what the WTA strives to be for riders.

We urge Western and the WTA to work both independently and together on remedying the issues students face when trying to get to campus. The buses aren’t reliable, and parking is inefficient. Both
systems can’t be broken.

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