A number of students, especially those living on or commuting to North Campus, rely on University buses to get to school and work. For the first time, the University has canceled transportation services over the holiday; the buses will stop rolling after today and will not resume until Saturday morning. This service change, which was made to save money, is a marginally effective cost-cutting measure that will cause more harm than good.
This weekend’s transportation cut is part of a larger plan to save money. University buses will no longer run on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or during Thanksgiving. The University speculates that because most students go home over the brief breaks, the changes will have little impact on those who rely on the system. Unfortunately, many students — especially those from distant cities and foreign nations — choose to stay in town over these short vacations.
For students on Central Campus, the problem is not very severe: Most of Ann Arbor’s attractions are within walking distance. However, canceling bus service effectively isolates residents of North Campus. The University itself estimates that 300 to 500 people, the majority of whom live on North Campus, ride the bus each day over Thanksgiving break. For students who do not have a car, there is no other practical way to commute between the campuses. If they wish to leave their North Campus residence halls, students will be forced to either walk in the cold or pay top dollar for expensive cab rides.
The changes, which will have immediate and tangible negative repercussions for students, hardly constitute a drop in Parking and Transportation Services budget. The department estimates that cutting service four days a year will save about $10,000, out of a budget that exceeds $4 million. But the changes will not even offset the $400,000 cost of increasing service to Northwood Family Housing.
The new busing schedule achieves little insofar as its stated goals, but manages to seriously inconvenience students who remain on campus. The University’s bus system is not merely convenient; it is vital. The distance between North Campus and Central Campus is not easily walkable, especially in the cold, and personal cars are often more of a hindrance than a help in pedestrian-friendly Ann Arbor. Even though the City of Ann Arbor will continue to operate its buses, the University’s buses are the only practical, economical connection between the two areas, and cutting service over the holidays is not warranted.