The Mac Weekly - March 6, 2009
Bus Passes on Track for Now
By Peter Wright, Managing Editor
The Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) approved a resolution during a meeting on March 3 that will direct $2,500 towards subsidizing bus passes. Those funds combined with additional money from other college offices will restart the discount program for the rest of the semester.
As reported last week in The Mac Weekly, the subsidies were frozen in mid February after the budget for the passes went nearly $19,000 over budget.
MCSG President Alison Tray said that administrators sent her an e-mail a little over two weeks ago asking for the MCSG's help in finding emergency funds. The resolution was discussed at a Legislative Body meeting on February 24, but tabled until the next meeting in order to allow the college Accounting Office to process the request.
"MCSG's roll in subsidizing bus passes for the rest of the semester stemmed off the need for extra funds," Tray said, "but it was done solely as a supportive means to help students in need."
Tray said that the $2,500 from MCSG will be combined with $2,500 from the president's office to pay for the $44, $22 and $11 Stored Supersaver (stored value) cards. She said that the college has found other money to continue subsidizing the semester Go-Passes and monthly passes.
She said that, while the program has been temporarily saved, it will need to undergo some adjustments for next year.
Last week, The Mac Weekly described a possible plan being discussed by Sustainability Manager Susanne Savanick Hansen that would reduce the subsidies applied to stored value cards and emphasize semester and month long passes by continuing the 50% discount only with them.
Tray said that something like Hansen's suggestion would probably be the most likely one chosen, but several other solutions have been suggested, including limiting the subsidy to students with a demonstrated need, like work or a volunteer activity. She emphasized that the search for a way to reorganize the program is still in its very early stages.
Whatever the solution, Tray said that students should start considering more some of the ways the possible budget cuts at Macalester over the next two years will affect them. She said that, while the proposed cuts are being specifically designed to limit impact on students, there will undoubtedly be certain ways where the cuts could affect students.
"As the economy worsens, we're all starting to realize that we may have to make sacrifices," Tray said. "The next few years may be difficult for many people especially when it comes to budgets, and as students we may have to ask ourselves what's most important to us."
Macalester's bus pass discount program started during last year's spring semester. A combination of growing interest and a bus fare increase led to nearly $39,000 in subsidies this year out of a $30,000 budget, twice as much as last year's budget.
The current program allows students, faculty and staff to buy an unlimited number of discounted passes overall, only limiting each person to one purchase per day. That system has led to some speculation that students may have overstressed the system by buying too many passes for themselves and possibly others.
Macalester has a lot of company when it comes to providing a bus pass discount program. Augsburg College offers subsidies on stored value cards, and Hamline University offers discounts on passes to students, faculty and staff.
The University of Minnesota has a special pass, the U-Pass, available through Metro Transit, which is subsidized by 50% for students. Their faculty and staff are offered similar subsidies on the other passes.
The University of St. Thomas offers a $16 discount for students who want a semester pass and do not have a parking permit, and it offers subsidies on the other passes for students who specially request it.