The 79x bus services will no longer run after midnight, according to the approved Lane Transit District 2016-2017 contract.
In response, this year, the Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee is striving to find feasible transportation alternatives for the much-needed service, ACFC chair Andrew Dunn said.
“There have been concerns about the effectiveness of the [79x] running on weekdays, but on weekends it’s pretty crucial,” he said.
Earlier in fall term, ACFC planned to bring back the late night 79x bus going to apartment complexes in the Autzen Stadium area. The bus would run until 2:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Right now, the last 79x bus departs from the University of Oregon at 11:30 p.m. The add-on package costs roughly $80,000, LTD representative Andy Vobora said.
The 79x service serves over 1,000 students a day but has suffered a 35-40 percent decrease in ridership in recent years, according to LTD statistics. Last year, ACFC cut the service due to a shortage of funds.
This year, ACFC members continue to find it inefficient to spend student incidental fees on a small number of students. According to LTD statistics, six to 10 students ride the 79x bus after 6 p.m. on weekdays.
“For people who use the 79x or would use the 79x, I think it’s on them to find another transportation,” ACFC member Skylar Miller said at the meeting.
UO student Bree Nicolello spoke at the meeting, saying ACFC is attacking “the most vulnerable group of students.”
“Students are going to move to where’s affordable, and it’s not always the closest to campus,” Nicolello said. “[ASUO] is providing a service to the people who really, really need it. Not everyone can afford a car and not everyone feels safe enough to bike. This is an issue of access.”
ASUO Finance Director Shawn Stevenson said Safe Ride could be the solution. He suggested students book ahead to guarantee a ride home.
After the cut last year, ACFC gave Safe Ride $10,000 as an alternative. Dunn said ACFC needs to collaborate more with Designated Driver Shuttle and Safe Ride to meet student demands.
“Safe Ride and DDS are always busy, and when students call in, they don’t always get a ride,” Dunn said. “I still think bringing back 79x is the best way.”
Vobora suggested ACFC explore LTD’s van service, called Special Mobility Services, which is smaller than a bus. It can serve as an alternative for the 79x bus, but expansion of this service could cost up to $52,000.
However, ACFC has limited options, Dunn said. With the program finance committee and department finance committee proposing high increases in their budgets, there are little funds left in the incidental fee.
The ACFC settled the $1.4 million LTD contract, a 3.96 percent decrease compared to last year’s, with one “no” and five “yes” votes on Jan. 27. The contract includes bus passes for over 24,000 UO students. It also provides the 79x bus service running from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday to Friday and 7 p.m. to midnight on Saturday.
ASUO Senate will vote on LTD contracts, among other budgets, on Feb. 13. UO President Michael Schill will sign off on next year’s Incidental fee budget on April 4.