An SGA-sponsored pilot bus route providing University of Maryland students with transportation to Annapolis ended April 6 with the completion of the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session.
The bus began running Jan. 10, the day before the session started, said Anna McLaughlin, assistant director for communications and public relations for the Department of Transportation Services. She added the Student Government Association approached DOTS with the idea for the program in Summer 2016, and DOTS agreed to provide the buses and drivers if SGA covered the $4,800 cost.
The SGA approved the pilot program this past fall, voting 31-1 in favor of creating a way for students without cars to get to Annapolis. Since its launch in January, the bus has transported 164 riders with an average of 3.5 students per trip, McLaughlin said.
The bus made one round trip on Tuesdays and Thursdays, dropping people off in Annapolis in the morning and bringing them back to Stamp Student Union after 5 p.m., McLaughlin said.
“Basically from the start of the project, it was about expanding opportunities and making sure that all Terps who want to intern in our state’s capital … have the opportunity to do that,” said Fasika Delessa, SGA academic affairs vice president. “It was a huge win for the university to acknowledge that we need this, and we need to make sure that opportunities are always available for all students.”
The junior business management major said that the transportation options to get to Annapolis were limited before this measure was implemented. Students who didn’t have access to a car were required to take multiple buses and wait for more than 40 stops, making the trip two or three hours, she said.
The DOTS route goes straight to Annapolis and has no additional stops, Delessa said. She added that the General Assembly’s internship coordinator expressed support for the idea as well.
Now that the General Assembly has ended, the SGA will evaluate the program to see if it is worth continuing next year, she added.
“It was a pilot program, so we just wanted to see if there was anyone who would use the bus,” Delessa said. “There have been people who have used it; it has been a great service,”
Jake Brodsky, a junior journalism major, said he drives to Annapolis twice per week for his journalism capstone course. Although he has to pay for gas and parking, Brodsky said he didn’t use the Annapolis bus route because it wasn’t advertised well.
“I only knew about it because [my bureau chief] told us about it. I didn’t actually hear anything about it,” he said, though he was aware the bus only ran once per day.
“It’s like one bus, and if you missed it, you’re done,” he added.
Brodsky acknowledged that it’s difficult to transport students to Annapolis in a way that’s both affordable and inclusive, but suggested that the university look into subsidizing car travel expenses to promote carpools.
In the meantime, the SGA will review the project’s pros and cons and discuss the future of this route, Delessa said.
“Whenever a program expands opportunities, I’d like to see it continued, but that still needs to be assessed,” she said. “There are costs involved, and if there’s a better option or better ideas out there, we’d love to hear them.”