UL-Lafayette students to vote on transportation fee

Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will vote this month on a fee increase that would help the school’s Office of Transportation Services purchase new buses and expand transportation options.

The student referendum will be added to the Student Government Association elections ballot on March 31 and April 1.

If passed, the measure would raise the student-assessed transportation fee from $25 to $50.

“One of the biggest grievances was the transit system,” SGA President David Neef said.

“It’s one of the biggest things students want to see at the university. Students want to see newer buses. We want to cut wait time in the lines. We want to make sure students are able get to class on time.”

Neef said the current fee was approved in 2002 and is not enough to expand transportation services or even to maintain the existing system.

Boh Hammett, a bus driver and SGA’s transportation services representative, was one of the proponents who helped move the measure along.

He said the only funding the department receives is from self-generated sources: the transit fee every student pays, parking passes that it sells and parking tickets.

He said the fee makes up the largest chunk of the department’s resources.

“We’re basically buying Band-Aids, man,” Hammett said. “We can’t afford to upkeep these buses, honestly. We have buses from 1994 to 2002 on the road every day. Individually, there are some that are better than others, but the fleet across the board is under constant repair.”

Hammett said the antiquated equipment is unable to meet the students’ demands for transportation.

Only nine of the school’s 11 buses are operational, he said; the fleet has not been expanded in several years.

If the fee increase passes, he said, the extra money would first go toward new equipment and improving current transportation services.

“What we’re going to try to do is get all of our ducks in a row,” Hammett said. “Hopefully, April 1 we’ll get the news that this passed and we’ll be ready to put everything in motion the very next day.

“Does that mean we’ll have new buses the next day? Definitely not, but we’re doing everything we can now to prepare for that.”

Neef said future uses of the money could go toward expanding the school’s night shuttle program or transporting students to local grocery stores or pharmacies.

Hammett and transportation services director Cheri Soileau worked with the SGA’s judicial branch, which also serves as the student assessed fee oversight committee, to create the referendum, which needs approval from the SGA, the university president and the University of Louisiana System Board.

Students have until elections conclude on April 1 to decide whether to raise the amount; however, after several years of tuition and fee increases, some students are wary.

“I think tuition is high enough already,” said Ty Freeman, 24, of Opelousas. “Parking is pretty crazy, but I don’t think they should raise it because it might not help students be able to park.”

“I don’t think they should increase the fee because they’re charging you just to park (on campus),” said Lonique Williams, 19, a Baton Rouge native who lives on campus.

“You’re already making money off of students who have to pay to park, and they’re going to increase the fee? I think maybe UL is trying to do a little too much.”

But the measure has found some support.

Jacob Muffoletto, 20, of Lafayette, said he doesn’t use the transit system, but wouldn’t mind paying the extra $25 if it helps out his fellow students.

“If they do what they say they’re going to do in a timely manner then I don’t see why not,” he said. “Parking needs to be updated on campus a lot. Everybody always has problems with it. The bus system is all jacked up.”