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The fine art of talking down to BYU students

Published November 20, 2010 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I'm a student at Brigham Young University. This semester we were all surprised to find out that our bus pass subsidy, the EdPass Program, was being eliminated with no recourse.

Currently the number of people who ride the bus is around 7 percent of the total student and faculty population. That's not a lot. That wasn't always the case, however.

In 2004, the number was more around 30 percent. Then, in 2005, parking on campus was made free for all students. This decision came as a result of the end of a government stipend that helped subsidize the EdPass Program, which allowed for bus passes to be free. When the federal stipend, which was intended to increase bus use to cut down on emissions in the valley, ended, free bus passes ended. And somewhere in there, parking became free.

I've been researching this topic for about two months. I talked to my student government representative, the vice president of BYU Student Association, right after I decided to get involved. We had an hour-long argument about whether or not bus passes were a necessity for students. He assured me that he would do all he could to bring the question up to the administration and said, also, that there was nothing he, or BYUSA, could do about it.

Last week, the Student Advisory Council, headed by the executive vice president and the vice president of BYUSA, voted in favor of canceling the EdPass Program.

Janet Scharman, vice president of Student Life, has released two official statements regarding this issue. Among the various reasons given in these, one shows up in both: that UTA has been difficult to deal with. Based upon the disparity between how much Utah Valley University pays for its EdPass Program and how much BYU pays, I have to agree. Utah Transit Authority charges BYU more than double what it charges UVU.

When I heard the comparative costs, I thought back to all of my discussions with city and UTA officials. Every time I mentioned how hard it had been to discuss this with Scharman, they laughed and said, "Not surprising."

BYU doesn't have a great history of fostering convenient public transit on campus. In fact, when the lines were drawn up for the new Bus Rapid Transit project, BYU insisted on keeping the line off the campus. It currently runs fully around campus, up University Parkway and down 900 East. I can't say why BYU doesn't want buses on campus, but it's clear that it doesn't.

The main problem, really, is the fact that the EdPass Program was initiated on the principle that it would be self-sustaining. However, if one looks at any public transportation system, it's easy to see that it's nearly impossible to be self-sustaining. You're going to run a deficit. Period.

I don't advocate for BYU to lose money, but I will say that it's a matter of servicing the students. The administration is adamant about BYU being a "walking campus." But, what happens when you can't walk? There are around 200 physically handicapped students on campus, and BYU also doesn't have a comprehensive physical accessibility center.

Even beyond that, as one student, upset about the developments, I don't have a voice on campus. I have no way to ask the questions that need to be asked. I'm told that I have no right to ask how my money is spent. All I know is that it certainly isn't being spent to help students.

Alex Christman is a junior studying comparative literature at Brigham Young University.






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