One month into the new school year, Tallahassee Community College students are still struggling to cope with having to pay to ride public transportation.
Jessica Barnett, 24, said, “I see my friends and students around me struggle to eat some days, so now when you have to choose between a meal or a bus ride, it matters.”
The change in the student transportation service occurred officially on July 1, after Tallahassee Community College and Star Metro, the city's bus provider, couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract.
TCC's contract with the city, set at $162,000 a year in 2006, was up for renewal this year, according to an article released by the Tallahassee Democrat.
Star Metro officials had hoped to negotiate a price point closer to city's two major universities, Florida A&M and Florida State.
John Spell, supervisor of Transit Operations at Star Metro, said, “TCC hadn’t updated their contract in years. The idea was to agree on an increase settlement that was more comparable to FAMU and FSU, but they unfortunately couldn’t afford that price.”
Florida A&M and Florida State University both include a separate per-credit-hour transportation fee that provides students with free bus service, a service that TCC does not have.
“We also tried to make an offer to implement the increase in segments that would occur over a period of time, but the school insisted that they could not afford it,” Spell said.
The college says Star Metro reassessed its costs and asked for about $400,000 to maintain services. TCC said the price was too high.
“We just couldn’t afford that price,” said Al Moran, vice president of Marketing and Communications for TCC. The college felt funding could be better spent on student services, so we did not want to pay the increase.”
At $1.25 a ride, $2.50 a day round-trip, students can estimate that they will have to pay up to $200 or more to get to and from school each day without free access. Star Metro also offers a $38 monthly pass for students, which could also be an alternative.
“I ride the bus pretty much every day,” said Stuart Davis, a general studies student at TCC.
Davis said he has noticed a decline in riders, particularly from his school.
“It’s really an inconvenience to have to pay each day, but I have to do it,” a Davis, who is from Austin, Texas. “I remember last year getting on the bus and it was always packed, but this year there is a lot less traffic.”
Students are still able to use student housing transportation services, as well as traditional alternatives such as walking or driving.