Written by: Sam Smith and Nicole Montero/FIUSM Staff
Moses Shumow takes the Golden Panther Express shuttle twice a week to teach classes at both the Modesto A. Maidique Campus and the Biscayne Bay Campus.
“It’s going to end up costing me $300 a semester,” said Shumow, a professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Shumow also has meetings on both campuses, requiring more use of the GPE.
The per-trip price for faculty, staff and guests of the University to use the GPE doubled to $5 last month, though the fee remains the same for students.
Shumow’s biggest concern was that he wasn’t informed prior to the increase.
“Above everything, it could’ve been handled better,” he said. “It was a shock to learn right before the semester started.”
BBC Campus Life Office Manager, Sarah David-Williams, also uses the GPE regularly. She said she is unhappy with the notification faculty and staff received from the Parking and Transportation Department.
“We would have appreciated advance notice,” said David-Williams.
The first email she received regarding the price increase was sent Aug. 20, but the subject of the email read “Fall Parking Update.” The email did not emphasize the change.
The next time staff were informed of the change was Sept. 5, three days before the price change took effect.
“I tried to spread the word because it wasn’t well advertised,” David-Williams said.
This was followed by an email from Lissette Soto Hernandez, the Department of Parking and Transportation’s Director of Administrative Services explaining, though not apologizing for the change.
“I understand they have to do it,” David-Williams said. “It’s just a matter of delivery.”
Thomas Hartley, executive director of the Department of Parking and Transportation, said the changes were based on the cost of providing the service, calculating that each trip would be $5 per person.
But, because students already pay transportation fees each semester, their fees are subsidized and cut in half.
“Vendors and employees, folks like me, have to pay the full cost,” he said. “We’re happy to provide the service and happy to let employees and others use the service, but they have to cover the cost.”
FIU does not own the shuttles, but rents charter vehicles from Academy, a private transportation company originally based in New Jersey.
“We hired Academy bus,” said Hartley. “That’s what the cost of providing the service is. If you charged everybody who rode, you’d have to charge everybody $5. But students get it at $2.50 because the other $2.50 comes from student fees.”
But students have also raised complaints.
“I’d like it if they lowered the cost or made it free,” said Aliséa Hugues, a freshman hospitality major.
Unless enrolled in a fully-online curriculum, students cannot exempt from the Transportation Access Fee included in their tuition, which rings up at $90.55. For those without cars, like Hugues, these charges add up quickly.
“I have class at BBC every day, I pay $25 a week,” she said.
This semester, Hughes will pay nearly $400 more to attend classes than students whose majors are based at MMC.
Although students who previously lived in on-campus housing at BBC were reimbursed for their traveling expenses, not everyone who used the service was. And without a housing option on BBC until 2016, many have no choice but to continue using the GPE.
The new Parking and Transportation website advertises improvements to the shuttle service, including “40 times faster” Wi-Fi.
But, sometimes, the Wi-Fi doesn’t work.
“With all the times I’ve taken the bus this semester, the Wi-Fi has worked twice,” Shumow said.
On at least one of the shuttles an air-conditioning unit leaks water into the seats, prompting riders to warn one another to avoid sitting in certain areas of the bus.
Free shuttle service was provided for those who wished to attend the football game between the Panthers and North Carolina Central University, for example.
Both the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida offer shuttle services to their various campuses, free of charge.
“It’s to be expected in America,” Hugues said of the charges. “If they tried to do that in France, they’d have a revolt.”