SGA survey on an increased transportation fee

Photo by Brenda Lin

A recent survey conducted by the Student Government Association (SGA) indicated that Tech undergraduates, at a rate of 59.98 percent, supported a $3 increase in the transportation fee in order to preserve the current level of service. Additionally, 63 percent of undergraduate respondents to the survey would support an additional $2 increase on top of the previous $3 increase that would allow Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) to establish an “express route”, which would travel back and forth between Clough Commons and Tech Square.

“What we’re looking for is that $3 to help maintain that level of service that we’ve heard students want,” said Lance Lunsway, Tech’s Director of Parking and Transportation services. “We were authorized to dip into some reserve funds last year, and I will tell you those are extremely low, and at some point there won’t be any more money to dip into.”

David Williamson, the Associate Director of Parking and Transportation services also made additional comments regarding the infeasibility of keeping the fee at its current rate.

“The mandatory fee funds a significant part of Transportation’s budget, close to 85%,” Williamson explained. “We’ve held that [fee] constant for the past three years. Clearly, it’s not sustainable to keep that up.”

The request for a fee hike comes after Groom Transportation, the third party company contracted by PTS to organize the Stinger and Tech Trolley services, sought raises for its employees including bus and trolley drivers following the end of the Great Recession and the recent beginning of an economic upswing. According to the contract between PTS and Groom, the amount paid annually to Groom to contract services and equipment including vehicles should increase by a percentage each year. This process has been stalled for a few years, primarily due to what Lunsway described as “lean years.”

“It’s interesting, because when you look at the overall trends in the economy you think, ‘Oh gas prices and going down, transportation costs are going down, we should pay less,’ but the reality is Groom is increasing their contract with Georgia Tech,” explained Dillon Roseen, the Undergraduate Student Body President for SGA. Roseen further said, “They are encouraging salary increases for their salary and their staff, which they haven’t done in many years.”

Both PTS and SGA have stated that the quality of the Tech Trolley and Stinger services will indeed drop if the $3 fee increase is not instituted. According to Roseen, times between buses will increase and the vehicles themselves will become more crowded as fewer buses are deployed on the roads.

“If you’re unhappy with transportation now, it’s going to get worse if they don’t get this $3 fee increase,” said Roseen.

“Most people are frustrated to pay more for the same service,” said Macie Whatley, SGA’s Vice President of Communications, in regards to the fact that a significant portion of the survey’s respondents indicated that they would not support such a fee increase. Whatley further explained, “It’s hard to understand how that is possible if you don’t sit on these meetings and hear from the departments.”

However, Roseen also stated that students who do not use transportation have a legitimate reason not to support the $3 fee increase.

In regards to the proposed express route between Tech Square and Clough Commons, PTS proposed the addition in order to provide an improvement in service to accompany the fee increase. While the new route would cost an additional $2, it would likely benefit students who choose to rent housing in the currently in-development Square On Fifth  and University House apartments.