Before I moved to Fort Collins, I was a public transit junkie. While I used to use the bus to get to work, to class, to the store, our own Transfort hasn’t won me over, and, aside from just getting to and from campus, I doubt it’s won you over, either. So why does Transfort work for getting students to class but fail spectacularly at anything else?
Transfort isn’t set up like the bus systems around other universities.
Most other schools have their own university-run, fare-free bus systems – and in towns like Fort Collins, where the university and city buses are integrated, there’s been movement toward fare-free bus service.
Let’s face it: Busting open your wallet to swipe an ASCSU-sponsored bus pass or find $1.25 is one of the many minor hassles deterring people from using Transfort. When bus systems go fare-free, like Chapel Hill, N.C., did in 2002, they see dramatic increases in the number of riders.
So why does Transfort charge? It’s not really for the money. In the year 2000, Transfort only got $188,000 of its $3.9 million operating budget – less than 5 percent – from fares. In fact, 60 percent of riders already travel free, either because they’re CSU students or under the age of 18.
Fare-free buses mean less hassle for riders, little change in revenue, and, because more people ride the bus, the entire system operates more efficiently and effectively. Even if the entire system can’t go fare-free, why not just drop fares on the campus-centered routes?
Even if I could ride hassle-free and fare-free, I’d still have the problem of figuring out where I’m going. Transfort’s routes, frankly, are a mess: A tangled, twisted, spaghetti-like assortment of seemingly random journeys through the city.
The campus routes are the exception that proves the rule: the handful of routes students commute to campus on are laid out along the logical grid system of major Fort Collins roads. This is where you see Transfort’s few packed buses.
The grid pattern works. Why not expand it to all of town? In fact,
Transfort already has the plans to move to more logical routes – someday – and they project a 40 percent increase in riders when they do. This change needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon.
The biggest hurdle, though, especially for someone like me who’s often on campus late into the evenings, are the bus schedules. When Transfort essentially shuts down after 7 p.m., it’s harder for students to stick around campus for work, late classes, or club meetings. When buses only run once every 30 minutes, there’s the additional hassle of making your schedule line up with Transfort’s.
Students have different transportation needs than many other bus commuters; we need flexible, frequent, reliable service. Right now, Transfort is only halfway there.
ASCSU needs to use its clout and its money to fight hard for improvements to the routes near campus: increasing service, streamlining routes, and maintaining affordability. It’s our student fee money, after all. Transfort, too, could learn a lot from its small successes near campus and build a really effective public transit system for Fort Collins – one that does more than just get us to class.