Student Transportation Services Must Be Reenvisioned

While the College explores ways to consolidate and improve transportation options between Oberlin and Cleveland, it is important to understand the role that we, the students, play in our current transportation options.

Currently, we spend just shy of $50,000 each year from the Student Activity Fund on transportation services. These funds support the shuttles to and from the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport as well as the weekend shopping shuttle. The funds are allocated to a student organization called OPASS, which is managed by the Student Transportation Coordinator. The Student Transportation Coordinator works with the Office of Environmental Sustainability to negotiate the terms of the aforementioned shuttle services with a company called Airport Oberlin Shuttle Services. In addition to the Activity Fund allocation, each rider must pay $15 for a one-way ride to the airport or $5 for one-way break shuttles to the airport.

SFC performed cost-benefit analyses that sought to answer four major questions: Is the service utilized? What are the barriers for students in utilizing this service? How do we get rid of those barriers? And how can we ensure that the services sponsored by the Activity Fund are as accessible and impactful to students as possible given the funds available for those services? We discovered there are many barriers that cause the shuttle services to be underutilized, while demand for transportation services — particularly to Cleveland — remains high. The committee identified three issues that were most pertinent to improving the accessibility of transportation services sponsored by the Student Activity Fund.

First, SFC is addressing the additional cost that students must pay each time they travel to or from the airport. Paying $15 to get to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is a competitive price compared to other available options. However, that money still represents a barrier to students who contribute to the Student Activity Fund and deserve access to the services that come from the collective contributions of the entire student body. To remedy this barrier, SFC members have begun discussions with representatives from the Airport Oberlin Shuttle to assess the cost and timeline for making our airport and grocery shuttles free with an Oberlin College ID.
The committee is also looking to understand the impact of the current shuttle schedule as a factor in its underutilization. We often build our travel schedules around our academic responsibilities, so I believe the transportation services should reflect those schedules. In order to understand more about the travel schedules of the student body, we will be conducting a survey to gauge if the shuttle schedule should change or remain the same.

In addition to scheduling, this survey will also gauge where students would like the shuttle to go. The final issue that we identified is that there are a lot of transportation options currently available, but they do not function in a cohesive transportation system and the destinations are limited. In making shuttles to the airport free, the committee also hopes to make Cleveland more accessible through the Regional Transit Authority system.

SFC has been exploring the costs associated with expanding the destination options offered through the Student Activity Fund and making them free with an OCID. This initiative requires ample feedback from the student body as well as more of the Activity Fund to be dedicated to transportation. In addition to adjusting our allocation strategy to accommodate more inclusive services and events, we are seeking approval from the Board of Trustees for a raise in the Student Activity Fund for the 2020 fiscal year. This will put more resources back into students’ hands to establish the services and events that we want to want to see on campus. And I believe students should have an active role in shaping our campus environment.