Many students are forced to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for transportation since Main Campus shuttles to Center City will no longer run.
Though it’s been more than a week since Temple announced the discontinuation of free shuttles to TUCC and the School of Podiatric Medicine, sophomore Adebusayo Adewole remains disheartened.
“I was very upset, and I still am very upset,” Adewole, a business and risk management major, said. “There’s a lot of money coming out of our pockets already.”
Hillel Hoffmann, assistant director of university communications, said the decision to halt services came after considering the potential savings for the university, ridership and alternative modes of transportation for students. Paid for by the university’s operating budget, the elimination of Center City shuttles and weekend and late-night service to Ambler Campus will save Temple $247,000.
“The university wanted to do everything it could do to have historically low tuition and keep financial aid as high as possible to help families,” Hoffmann said in reference to the 2.9 percent tuition increase decided last May.
The shuttle services were “indentified as a potential area of savings in March/April 2009,” Hoffmann said. A final decision was not made until the day of the press release, Aug. 28. The information was later distributed via the electronic Temple Today newsletter on the first day of classes, Aug. 31.
Freshman Allison Ripa was told during her April “Experience Temple” day that free shuttle services would be available to students taking classes at TUCC.
Likewise, Lena Van, a sophomore English major who transferred to Temple from Rutgers University, was told there would be a shuttle to take her to her Survey of American Literature class in Center City.
“I was disappointed in the university because on the second day here, my friend and I decided to explore [TUCC],” Van said. “But no one could tell us where [the shuttles] were, not even the bus drivers.”
The next day, when seeking departure times for TUCC to attend her class, Van found out the services had been discontinued.
“It’s clear the university could have done a better job communicating to students,” Hoffmann said.
While Hoffmann said “the shuttle bus drivers monitor the ridership constantly,” Temple could not provide day-to-day ridership statistics. Low ridership was one of the three factors considered throughout the decision-making process.
Another factor, alternative modes of transportation for students, was heavily weighed. The university looked at other mass transit options, such as the SEPTA C bus and Broad Street Line, to TUCC and TUSPM and decided “if Temple is going to provide bus transportation, it’s going to go to the place most far away,” Hoffmann said.
The Ambler Campus is located approximately 15 miles from Main Campus, at 580 Meetinghouse Rd.
Aside from the university’s shuttle service, students can utilize SEPTA’s Regional Rail system but must rely on a car to travel the remaining distance to campus from the R5 train station.
However, just as the university is trying to save money, so are students.
“I came home one day, and my roommate looked so confused,” Adewole recalled. “She has class in Center City every day, and she’s not working.”
Adewole was enrolled in one of the 177 undergraduate classes the campus is offering this semester – TUCC also services 92 graduate courses – but convinced her professor to allow her to take Statistics for Business on Main Campus after she discovered the services were eliminated during the first week of classes.
“It’s a class I’m required to take for graduation, and I had to beg the professor to let me take his class on Main Campus,” she said. “But it’s Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. Not a lot of professors are nice like that.”
Van also dropped her TUCC course, opting to substitute it for a class offered on Main Campus.
“I think it’s nice they want to keep the tuition low, but I think they should still make [shuttle services] free,” she said, adding that she transferred to Temple because of its positive reputation and low in-state tuition. “But it’s also important for kids to go to class, and if they have to pay for it, they won’t go.”
Despite a similar attitude among many discontented students, Hoffmann said “the reasons for instituting this change remain.”
Apart from cutting costs and in accordance with the university’s climate commitment – President Ann Weaver Hart signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in April 2008 – Temple said discontinuing the services will “promote sustainability,” according to the press release.
“Temple became committed … to taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Hoffmann said in an e-mail. “Increasing the Temple community’s use of mass transit is a critical part of that.”
A member of Temple’s Students for Environmental Action, Korin Tangtrakul said she is unsure how beneficial the discontinuation of the shuttles will be to the environment due to students’ inclinations to drive to class instead of taking SEPTA.
“Temple’s greenhouse emissions in transportation will be lessened,” Tangtrakul, senior environmental studies major, said, “but this would be reversed if students take their own cars.”
For now, Adewole said she is disregarding Temple’s sustainability claim and hoping for a change in the university’s decision.
“People use the shuttle busses more than anything,” she said. “Even if it’s not every day or every hour, something is better than nothing.”
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.