While students, staff and faculty will probably be paying more next year for bus service like the rest of the community, services to UCSB will be improving.

Metropolitan Transit District representatives presented a proposal for changes to next year’s rates and services provided to students and the community in a meeting Tuesday at the Graduate Student Lounge. MTD, which operates seven separate bus lines to UCSB, expects to lose funding next year due to the state and national budget crises and the failing economy. As a result, MTD faces the decision to either cut services or raise fares next year.

The decreases in funding are expected to eliminate at least $700,000 from MTD coffers – about 25 percent of its budget. MTD would like to continue providing the same level of service in the future, but in order to do so it will have to raise bus fare and the UCSB lock-in fee, MTD Controller Jerry Estrada said. However, schedule and route changes are likely.

“Because of the budgetary situation Jerry alluded to earlier, we are contemplating at least a 1 percent drop in the total number of hours that we will be serving systemwide,” Manager of Systems Planning Mark Thomsen said. “This may result in a larger reduction as state and federal monies become better known in the next week or two. Despite that, however, we are proposing that we improve service to the campus in three different areas.”

Significant changes in the MTD schedule were made for the 2002-03 year, starting last September. Thomsen said the changes were a result of years of collaboration with students, staff and faculty, and that they brought an increase in bus use this year.

Changes introduced earlier this year include increased service late at night seven days a week and the introduction of express routes Monday through Saturday evening. MTD also changed the 12G and 12U lines back to the less confusing 24 line that existed in previous years. The most significant change, though, was rescheduling line 27 between the Camino Real Marketplace and the bus loop at North Hall to enable students to take the bus and get to class on time. Thomsen said the rescheduling of line 27 caused bus use on that line to skyrocket 300 to 500 percent.

“We retimed that service, and the result is that we’ve seen an increase in ridership on line 27, that trunk line which operates on class days only,” Thomsen said. “It’s had some dramatic results.”

In the last year, total bus use has increased 25 percent. UCSB student use rose by 75,000 trips in the last month.

Thomsen also addressed complaints from graduate students that bus service is not tailored to their schedules or lives.

“We have graduate students [who live] on the other side of the highway, and they have complained in the past of ridership capability, especially late at night, because as you know, graduate students tend to work late at night and with the buses at 9 they are out of luck,” Graduate Student Association President Edward Collins said. “You could talk to the university and see if it’s worth your while to map [residences of graduate students] out and see where the source destinations are and maybe find out that you’re missing an entire capture market that may be willing to take your late buses.”

Thomsen said MTD would look at starting to separate graduate and undergraduate students into different categories when considering route and schedule changes. MTD currently looks at staff, faculty and student categories but does not differentiate between graduate and undergraduate students.

“If you separate graduate and undergraduate students you will get a different set of information for source destination and for the flow times because graduate students would be more likely to work late on campus and want to go home, and undergraduate students living in I.V. might be more likely to take the bus out to downtown,” Collins said.

Proposed changes for next year include creating a bus route through I.V. and onto campus via Sabado Tarde Road, which will open traffic from Ocean Road to I.V. this fall. The Sabado Tarde Road “gate” is a collaborative project between the university, the county and MTD, Thomsen said.

“This will allow MTD to serve not only the second stop on the campus … but it will also allow us to serve the area of Isla Vista south of Abrego [Road],” Thomsen said. “Currently, we don’t have service in that area.”

The proposed change would reroute line 27 to go from Storke Road and the Camino Real Marketplace to Francisco Torres Residence Hall, onto Camino del Sur, onto Sabado Tarde Road, then to Ocean Road and to the bus loop at North Hall.

“What we’re proposing to do is reroute the 27 without affecting its arrival times or the key class start times,” Thomsen said. “The frequency will be the same as last year. The span of service will be the same – it will be from about 7:30 in the morning ’til about 6:20 in the evening on class days.”

To make those changes possible, MTD will eliminate the Pacific Oaks stop at the Camino Real Marketplace, which is serviced by other lines.

MTD is also planning to increase the frequency of the line 9 route between Storke Family Student Housing on West Campus and the North Hall bus loop on weekdays. The new schedule would have a bus arriving at Storke Family Student Housing every half hour. In order to do that, MTD will have to eliminate the Abrego Road/Camino Pescadero route, which is covered by other lines.

In the future, MTD would like to create a third stop on campus at the East Gate entrance and a shuttle between Isla Vista, the Camino Real Marketplace and campus seven days a week, year-round. Thomsen said MTD is looking for outside funding sources for the shuttle service.