The Student Government Association has signed a contract with St. Joseph Transit to provide students, faculty and staff of Western with free public bus rides. Anyone with a valid Western I.D. will be allowed unlimited rides to and from any of the bus stops Transit already routes.
Shana Meyer, director of student affairs, explains that though the program has just begun, the system is already receiving a great deal of use.
“The program has already been initiated and in fact, a number of the Western housekeeping staff have already begun using the services,” Meyer said.
Though the program is new to SGA and Western, the concept was never directly voted on by senators. Instead, program funding was written into the annual budget by SGA Executive President Ida Haefner.
“Being the SGA President gives Ida a lot of power when it comes to drafting a budget,” Stanton said. “But, senators do still have to approve said budget.”
Which is exactly what happened at Monday’s SGA meeting. The SGA 2015-16 Budget passed by a 15-0 vote with no questions from senators.
As per the contract, riders can use the services for free for the 2015-16 school year. If the program is used at least 9,500 times, then SGA will enter into an $11,800 contract to continue the program for the 2016-17 school year.
“If we don’t meet that [number of riders], the $11,800 will go back into rollover for that next year,” Haefner said.
If the program is not used at least 9,500 times in the coming year, then Transit will not extend the program another year.
The $11,800 figure was determined on the basis of $1 per student, per semester.
The standard cost of unlimited rides through Transit is $40 per month per rider.
As SGA Executive Vice President Brad Stanton notes, no matter what happens with the program, it will be have a positive impact.
“It’s actually a really good deal for us because we don’t have to do any of the PR, we don’t have to do any of the marketing,” Stanton said. “Everyone who hears we’ve gotten free St. Joseph Transit is like, ‘You got a really good deal.’”
Though the service is beneficial to Western, the program has received some criticism, being a student-funded program that staff and faculty can use without a charge.
To use the free bus rides, individuals must present their student or employee I.D. For 50 cents, Transit will deviate from its route and pick up or drop off individuals at any location within the downtown St. Joseph area.