Transportation council wants student input

by Heather Fors

Although she bought an on-campus parking permit, College of Liberal Arts freshman Sam Bias still got a ticket after she parked in an illegal area of a St. Paul lot, which she said was unmarked.
And even though she questioned officials about the poor markings, she still wound up dishing out the cash.
Bias said she would have felt more comfortable talking to a peer about the problem because they could better relate to her as opposed to parking officials who might not take her seriously.
But Bias and other University students with transportation concerns now have access to an official student voice through the Student Transportation Advisory Council, a subgroup of the Minnesota Student Association. However, a lack of participation thus far has convinced officials to give the council’s priorities a face-lift.
At its inception fall quarter, the council’s primary goal was to serve both Parking and Transportation Services and students by acting as a liaison between the two.
During fall quarter, council members surveyed bus riders to evaluate when people ride, how much they spend and other issues. The council also sought student opinion about a possible free bus pass, which MSA eventually decided not to support because of the proposed hike in student services fees for all students to cover the cost.
In general, the council has not been very successful in the eyes of its founders, particularly Laura Beauchane. “I think we were trying to be too ambitious and trying to do too much at once,” she said.
The council will slightly reconfigure in order to take a less proactive role as a liaison. Ideally, the council would confront issues brought to them rather than seek issues to be addressed, Beauchane said.
Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said they also welcome communication with students.
“If there’s a problem out there that we could correct, we’d like to be given the opportunity to do so,” Baker said.
The issues Beauchane would like the council to concentrate on in the future are primarily those dealing with busing.
“Campus busing is always an issue. You can’t please everyone, but I hope that we could improve it for the people that use it,” Beauchane said.
One suggestion is to try to reinstate one of the old 13 bus routes, which ran like the Eddy-Blegen Circulator but also extended to St. Paul.
The council will also start approaching residence hall patrons and University greeks about transportation needs because they are not often sought for comment on transportation.
But commuters say the council should seek people who are more obviously affected by transportation and parking issues, particularly those who don’t live on campus.
Lynne Robertson, a CLA sophomore who lives off campus, said the council should advertise more heavily. She had never heard of the group. “If you advertise, the ones who really have a problem with transportation and parking are going to come out,” Robertson said.
The council should consider the concerns of people who are close enough to campus to consult, but who live far enough away that transportation is more of a concern, she said.
Whatever their capacity, forming an official council to voice students’ transportation and parking concerns is a step in the right direction, students said.
“(Parking and Transportation Services) might look at it as, Well, you’re just one student who is saying this.’ Whereas if you voice your concerns with the others, together you’re a stronger voice,” Bias said.