Story by Alicia Steele, Staff writer
Murray Calloway Transit lost funding from Murray State this year, according to Bjarne Hansen, Executive Director of Murray Calloway Transit. This loss in funding has resulted in students paying to ride the bus and a drop in total rides students have taken this year.
Murray State’s decision to cut funding to the transit system came at the same time more than 100 parking spots disappeared from campus to make way for construction projects, causing a parking crunch this semester.
“I think at this point we help the (parking) system,” Hansen said. “There are people we pick up and drop off in parking lots on campus, so I think we bring people to campus, but I think there are also people who utilize the service on campus to get from point A to point B.”
However, since the funding cut, Murray Calloway Transit has experienced a drop in rides taken by students. Hansen said at the peak of their business they were giving around 6,700 rides per month, but that number has now dropped to 2,000 rides per month.
Hansen said Murray State was providing $138,000 in funding when Racer Routes began, and funded $14,000 last year, before choosing not to fund Racer Routes this year. Hansen said Murray State had a change in budget procedures, resulting in the choice not to fund them this year.
Hansen said because Murray State cut funding, now Murray Calloway Transit charges students to ride the Gold Route, which runs to campus as well as select places off campus. The Blue Route, however, is still free.
A semester pass for the Gold Route will cost a student $100 for unlimited rides. Otherwise the cost is one dollar for a one way ride. The Gold Route makes stops at the Curris Center, Wal-Mart, Diuguid Drive, Campus Evolution, Station 74, Cambridge, Murray Calloway Transit Authority and Faculty Hall.
The Gold Route runs in a loop between 7 a.m. and 5:10 p.m.
Audrey Landers, junior from Ashburn, Virginia, said the $100 Gold Route bus pass fee would cost her more than a parking pass from Murray State.
“I tried to use public transportation as a freshman but it was confusing to figure out where the bus would be,” Landers said.
Hansen said students living in Campus Evolution or Station 74 can receive a free Gold Route pass from their apartment complex.
The Blue Route is free for all riders, and makes stops at the Curris Center, Shoppes of Murray, Kroger, Wal-Mart, Wesley, Murray Calloway Apartments, the Judicial Building, Maple Street, Weaks Center, the Calloway County Library, MHA Housing, Food Giant, Walgreens and University Drive.
The Blue Route also offers night rides Monday through Thursday from 5:10-10 p.m. that will stop at the Curris Center, Walgreens, Food Giant, MHA Housing, Maple Street, Murray Calloway Apartments, Diuguid, Wal-Mart, Shoppes of Murray and the Cheri Theatre.
Molly Morrison, freshman from Granite City, Illinois, said she does not have a car on campus, but only uses public transportation when needed, which is about once a month.
“I would prefer to have my own car simply because I could go when I want and go where I want without stopping,” Morrison said.
Morrison said she thinks more people should use public transportation to help with the parking problem on campus, but that it is not very convenient because it only comes at certain times and only goes certain places.
However, Hansen said that Murray Calloway Transit offers on demand pick up and drop off. For two dollars, students and community members can call Murray Calloway Transit Authority 24 hours before the time of the ride and request to be picked up or dropped off within half a mile of the route. He also said that the bus service offers discounts for disabled passengers and their escorts.
Morrison said that Murray State’s decision to cut funding is understandable but makes it hard on students who cannot drive or do not have a car.
In response to trying to get funding back from Murray State, Hansen said, “We are encouraged to keep communication open and are trying to work with students through survey and presence on and around campus.”