MSA crunches numbers, seeks permanent late-night bus funding

Jens Krogstad

The Minnesota Student Association is compiling statistics and feedback on its late-night bus pilot program, hoping to convince the University to fund it permanently.

During a two-week pilot run, the buses picked up about 5,000 passengers along a route including stops on the East and West bank campuses, as well as in nearby neighborhoods, according to MSA facilities and housing Chairman Tom Zearley.

“It’s been a battle, but I think we’ve proved that the late-night bus is a good concept,” he said. The plan has been in the works for more than two years.

MSA is compiling final rider statistics and collecting student feedback from online surveys and e-mail testimonials, Zearley said.

Once it is complete – sometime in the next two weeks – Zearley said, he will present the information to the Student Activities Office and Parking and Transportation Services. The goal is to secure financial and administrative backing for the project, he said.

“Money is the key,” Zearley said. “But it’s obvious with the University’s budget that they’re going to say, ‘We don’t have the money.’ “

Zearley said it is critical to convince the University the bus program is something students want.

“If students make the demand, it will definitely speed up the process,” he said.

Ideally, the University will fund a permanent late-night bus program in full, Zearley said. But he said a more realistic scenario would be partial University funding, with other funds coming from grants MSA is seeking elsewhere.

As a last resort, Zearley said, he would consider asking students to fund the program through Student Service Fees.

June Nobbe, University Office for Student Affairs director, said she has not talked with MSA since the pilot program began, though she said her office’s role would be advisory.

“We’re just trying to be supportive of what they want to do,” she said.

Parking and Transportation Services could not be reached for comment Friday.

Several students said they favor a late-night bus.

“I think they should have one going on all night, not just until (2 a.m.), especially with it getting cold out,” first-year student Peter Kalscheur said.

Zearley said he would like a full-time late-night bus to begin running as soon as possible, preferably next semester, though he said it could take until next school year.