Capital Metro should not eliminate UT shuttle routes

2013_09_04_capital_metro_charlie

Charlie Pearce

Capital Metro board of directors voted Monday to change the Cameron Road and eliminate the Wickersham Lane UT shuttle services starting Spring 2014.

On Wednesday, Sept. 4, the Texan reported on a plan by Capital Metro to eliminate two of its UT shuttle routes to cut costs, perhaps as early as January. The routes on the chopping block serve the Wickersham Lane and Cameron Road areas, in southeast and northeast Austin, respectively. According to Capital Metro, these routes have the lowest ridership of any of UT’s shuttles.

While the route cancellations would affect all students living in the areas through which the shuttles run, they will likely hit graduate students especially hard, says Columbia Mishra, Graduate Student Assembly president. We’re inclined to agree and urge the Capital Metro board of directors to vote against the plan.

Finding housing, while difficult for all Longhorns, is especially difficult for graduate students, Mishra says, because most students live on small salaries in the most expensive rental market in Texas. Compounding this problem is the limited availability of University-provided graduate student housing. According to Eric Campbell, a linguistics graduate student who lives in the University Apartments on Lake Austin Boulevard, he had to sit on a waiting list for a year, and he suspects the wait may have grown longer.

Because of these factors, graduate students tend to look east of Interstate 35, where rents are cheaper than in the areas directly adjoining campus. For such students, the presence of the shuttles allows them to get to campus in a timely manner without a car.

The cuts, if enacted, won’t isolate graduate students completely, but they will leave them with less-than-ideal options for getting to campus.

“Many graduate students don’t have a car. … There are city bus routes, but they would take three times as long as the current routes,” Mishra said. In addition, the proposal could lead to less safe late-night commutes home.        

According to the American Community Survey’s five-year estimates from 2007 to 2011, 886 graduate students lived in the ZIP codes through which the Wickersham Lane shuttle passes, and 1,197 lived in the area of the Cameron Road shuttle. While not all of these students attended UT, these statistics put somewhere around 17 percent of UT graduate students at risk.

Capital Metro says it doesn’t have enough money from UT to keep the shuttles running, but surely there are other, less drastic changes that could be implemented that wouldn’t be so disruptive to students’ lives. Reducing frequency, while it would result in more crowded buses, would be better than no buses at all.