Route 52 may get reprieve

by Lynne Kozarek

The University’s Route 52 bus service might receive a stay of execution, albeit a temporary one.
University Parking and Transportation Services is attempting to scrape together $350,000 to keep Route 52 up and running temporarily for a year, but the route would probably be modified.
“I don’t think we’re quite there yet,” said Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services. “We are requesting funding, and it is part of the budget process. It’s kind of a Jerry Maguire thing: Show me the money!”
The University has run Route 52 independently since 1983 and planned to discontinue service on July 1.
Paul Tschida, assistant vice president of the University’s Department of Health, Safety and Transportation, was more optimistic than Baker, saying Route 52 service will definitely continue.
“Route 52 services are not going to end on July 1,” Tschida said.
Currently Medicine Lake Lines provides the buses and drivers for Route 52. According to Arlen Hviding, a terminal manager at Medicine Lake Lines, a new contract has been worked out for continued service. He said the contract has not yet been signed.
“I prefer to wait to talk about it until the ink is on the dotted line,” Hviding said.
Metropolitan Council Transit Operations, which runs most metro area buses, planned to pick up the slack by adding additional routes to the current MCTO bus service. Most of the potential new routes would not go directly to the University.
In a February meeting held by the Metropolitan Council, several University students and staff members argued against canceling the service.
Tschida said that it was important for the University to support this public policy issue.
“We are working with the Metropolitan Council Transit Operations to assure there will be no changes,” Tschida said, “but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some down the road.”
Baker said that Parking and Transportation Services is planning to present a parking fee request to the Senate Committee on Finance and Planning later this month.
“Some of the money from parking goes to support transit,” Baker said, “so possibly there would be a rise in parking fees. Other than parking I don’t know where the money will come from.”
Baker attributed the dilemma to years of budget reductions and said the matter was out of his hands.
“The money is not ours to find,” he said.
The possible continuance of Route 52 service comes on the heels of the quick defeat of the U-Pass proposal by the Student Services Fees Committee. The plan would have added about $20 to the student service fee and given each fee-paying student a quarterly bus pass.
Jennifer Halko, sub-committee chairwoman of the Student Service Fees Committee, said that when the U-Pass plan was presented, Parking and Transportation Services representatives said that Route 52 would be discontinued regardless of whether the U-Pass was accepted.
“It doesn’t make sense to me to have Route 52 service when MCTO would provide the routes,” Halko said.
The issue could come before the fees committee again, since Route 52 would face cancellation next year under the extension plan.
“If they present the U-Pass again, they need to have more students working on it,” Halko said. “I think next time the issue comes up, it will be much more hotly debated.”