The bus stops here
Shaarujaa Nadarajah has proposed a pilot project, which would run during exam periods and rely on funding from the Student Life Enhancement Fund, with the possibility of faculties contributing as well. Nadarajah hopes to make use of the Lot M shuttle bus and the school buses used to transport students to and from Fortinos on Tuesday nights, ideally meaning the project’s sole expense would be wages.
Patricia Kousoulas hopes to run a pilot program during the Fall 2017 exam period. She estimates the cost to be $10,000 per semester for a service running for four hours a night during exams. Kousoulas sees two funding options, the first being from SLEF, the second from the McMaster Students Union operating budget. To accomplish the latter, the Student Representative Assembly would need to vote on the reallocation of fees.
Aquino Inigo wants to advocate for the current Lot M shuttle to be replaced with an accessible bus. During that time, he still plans to implement a late-night shuttle service during exams with the hope that the buses would be replaced with accessible vehicles. The bus would run seven times a night and Inigo estimates the cost of this initiative would be $200 per night, adding up to $2,400 over the course of a 12-day exam period. The funding for this would come from the university’s ancillary budget since parking is an ancillary fee. He indicated that the most recent Parking Services report shows they are operating at a surplus, which could be used to fund the bus project.
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The proposal of a late-night shuttle bus service during exams is quickly becoming one of the most discussed platform points this presidential election. Three of the six presidential candidates are proposing similar routes that would run between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. These platform points are appealing to students who live in the areas surrounding McMaster because it promises a safe, fast ride home after a late night studying on campus. Some students may find it reassuring that the idea has appeared on half the candidates’ platforms.
But just because the point has appeared multiple times doesn’t mean it is ready to come to fruition, and no matter the proposed solution, each candidate’s shuttle bus proposal is lacking in multiple ways.
The idea of using the Lot M shuttle bus, mentioned by both Nadarajah and Inigo, is not a viable option. Parking Services confirmed the current shuttle bus is not road licensed, meaning it cannot transport students anywhere off campus. While Inigo could remedy this by replacing the current bus with an accessible, road-safe one, this replacement would not happen immediately. Nadarajah, on the other hand, seems to be counting on being able to use the Lot M bus, an intention she would need to revise were she to be elected.
It is also worth noting that the university does not own the buses used to shuttle students between the Ainslie Wood Fortinos and campus. Fortinos confirmed that they supply the buses used by students, meaning Nadarajah’s goal to only spend money on bus drivers’ wages is infeasible. McMaster does own a road-legal bus that travels between the university’s main campus and the Ron Joyce Centre in Burlington, but it is not clear whether or not this bus could be used for the exam shuttle, nor is it clear if McMaster owns or leases this vehicle.
Perhaps more importantly than the actual buses is how each of the candidates proposes to fund the program. The potential use of Student Life Enhancement Fund money to kick-start the shuttle service is a method favoured by both Kousoulas and Nadarajah, but since students vote on which ideas they would like to see put into action, SLEF is not guaranteed funding.
Kousoulas and Inigo both list funding alternatives to SLEF, but neither candidate has a confirmed source of funding for their projects.
Kousoulas has suggested amending the MSU’s operating budget, but this relies on the SRA voting in favour of the reallocation of the student fees that contribute to this budget. While she hopes to eventually partner with the university on a long-term solution to the funding of the shuttle service, university administration moves slowly at best, meaning a long-term source of funding could be years away from being agreed upon.
Inigo has suggested using the surplus generated by parking on campus, which is an ancillary fee. Director of Parking and Security Glenn DeCaire confirmed that Inigo did consult Parking Services on the use of this surplus to fund the shuttle bus service, but he could not guarantee that Parking Services could apply their surplus to this initiative.
If any of these three candidates are elected, they will have their work cut out for them. The exam-season shuttle bus service is a point that will require more work than the candidates have outlined in their platforms and could lead to a higher cost for students.