The shuttle bus between the Portland and Gorham campuses will make its final loop on Friday before shutting down for the rest of the summer due to low useage.
“This was a difficult decision but we could not balance the high cost of the service with the low level of use,” wrote William Wells, the associate vice president of Operations in the Office of Finance and Administration in a press release last week.
According to Judie O’Malley, the assistant director of Public Affairs, the decision to shut down the shuttle was based on figures during one week of its operation when ridership was only half of what administration expected it to be and what they deem financially sustainable.
The number of riders on the bus has dropped dramatically from 61 riders the week of May 12 to just 29 riders the week of May 26. This ridership is less than half of the number of riders deemed sustainable for a week of transportation. The week of May 26 the shuttle bus drove ten runs without any riders at all.
“It was fiscally and environmentally irresponsible to continue to have the shuttles going back and forth empty,” said O’Malley. “It was absurdly expensive to run that shuttle bus every day. “It was like burning money.”
According to O’Malley, the shuttle bus costs about $2,500 to run in one week and is paid for by using student activity fee funds.
“Because of this [low useage] and USM’s well-known fiscal situation, we cannot continue this costly summer service while we are looking for ways to reduce expenses,” wrote Wells.
Students who still need to travel back and forth between campuses are being encouraged to carpool. The Office of Sustainability has set up a Google Form-based program for students called the USM Summer RideShare Program. The form is only accessible for students, faculty and staff using their university-given email addresses and provides a place for people to list their transportation needs and schedules to help each other get to class.
The university will also be offering transportation by request for students who need to travel between the campuses and have no success finding a ride with the carpooling program.
O’Malley said that the money saved from the shutdown will be used in other areas including maintenance of the grounds, parking lot upkeeps and snow removal.
Reporters at the Free Press attempted to find students who used the shuttle bus regularly, but were unable to find any students using the bus after many attempts.