College Park’s Seven Springs Apartments is canceling its participation with Shuttle-UM service, and residents who make the daily commute from the complex to the University of Maryland say they’ve been left high and dry.
The apartment complex withdrew its partnership with the university’s Department of Transportation Services after the cost to participate in the shuttle service increased from $103,000 to $107,000, an official with the company that manages Seven Springs wrote in an email.
“Our decision was not taken lightly and was made after months of comparing increasing costs versus declining resident participation,” wrote Don Stocks, vice president of residential management operations at Ross Management Services, which oversees the apartment complex.
The 110 bus route, which serves the apartment complex, will also be discontinued, according to the DOTS website. The department will expand the 127 Mazza GrandMarc route to make sure people who live in neighborhoods along Rhode Island Avenue can get to campus, the website read.
The complex sits off Cherry Hill Road — about three miles away from the edge of the campus — and is largely home to graduate students, DOTS director David Allen said.
Stocks wrote that resident participation in the shuttle service dropped significantly over the past few years. But since the university’s Graduate Student Government got wind of the decision last week, over 40 students and staff members who say they regularly use the bus have reached out to the body, GSG president Annie Rappeport said.
Many expressed frustration that, as of Wednesday morning, Seven Springs’ website listed access to the Shuttle-UM under its amenities. Mechanical engineering postdoctoral student Liuxian Zhao — and others — said that resource was a huge reason why he chose to live at the complex.
“The main problem is they’re not honest,” he said. “When I signed the lease, they said they provided the shuttle bus.”
Zhao’s lease ends after the fall semester, and he said he doesn’t plan on renewing it after the shuttle discontinuation.
Other residents wrote to Rappeport and GSG representatives that they don’t have a car. Philip Nicholas, a master’s student planning to move into Seven Springs next week, said his roommate falls under this category.
Nicholas said hearing that Seven Springs wouldn’t have the shuttle service next semester was “really devastating.” He and his roommate haven’t signed the lease yet, but they’re struggling to find vacancies in other College Park apartment buildings. In turn, Nicholas doesn’t want to fork out the money to purchase a parking space on campus.
“How in the world do we get to the campus?” he asked.
Seven Springs hosts an on-site metro bus site for the WMATA 83 route, which serves the same stops as the 110 used to, as well as the College Park Metro station and stops along Baltimore Avenue beside campus, according to the DOTS website. The fare to ride is $2, whereas the 110 was free.
Recently, Seven Springs posted flyers in its complex, requesting residents who use the shuttle to visit the resident services office to be informed of “some upcoming changes in services.” Zhao went to the office, where he said he was given a Metro card to assist with the cost of his commute for this semester.
But this advertising strategy concerned Rappeport, as she said residents may not know from the flyer’s warning that the 110 service is ending.
Stocks didn’t respond to requests to comment on the Metro cards, writing that questions asked of him were “related to private resident information and/or business practices,” which he said he couldn’t discuss.
Stocks also wrote that Seven Springs is partnering with the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission to make improvements to the Little Paint Branch Bike Trail, which runs along the front of the property, and that officials are working to provide a bike-sharing service to its residents.
Over the last three years, Allen said that the cost to run the 110 bus route has steadily increased following boosts to drivers’ hourly wages.
Apartment complexes in the area help pay for Shuttle-UM routes near their buildings, Allen said. But the cost to apartment complexes to host stops hasn’t ticked up alongside this rise; instead, the increase has pushed hikes in mandatory student fees, he said.
This year, DOTS increased the rate for other apartments with shuttle stops by about 3 percent, even though the actual increase in cost to run the bus routes has been a lot more, Allen said. Seven Springs was the only complex to cancel its route — even after DOTS offered the company a lower cost option, with the shuttle stopping by the apartment less frequently, Allen said.
Regardless, some Seven Springs residents feel like they’ve been thrown a curveball, many of them still packing and preparing to move in.
The GSG has compiled a spreadsheet of everyone who has reached out to them, and is planning to circulate an email with possible paths forward for frustrated residents, including filing a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of Maryland’s Attorney General’s office.
There’s a chance Seven Springs is just waiting for the outcry over its decision to fizzle out, Rappeport said, and the GSG wants to let people know that it’s worth pursuing grievances.
“It has become this problematic issue, and it is going to impact a lot of people,” she said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the names of the 127 Mazza GrandMarc bus route and Shuttle-UM. This story has been updated.