At his final meeting as a member of the Board of Trustees, Hogan Medlin found himself in a lonely — but familiar — position.
Four months removed from casting the single unfavorable vote against a 6.5 percent tuition increase, Medlin, the outgoing student body president, was the lone dissenting vote again Thursday, this time against a five-year transportation plan that calls for increases in student fees and parking permit prices.
He found the same thing lacking in the latest proposal: the student voice.
The plan will offset upcoming transportation system costs of $6.1 million by increasing student fees and instituting a series of new permit charges. Medlin cited concerns that student input throughout the plan’s development was insufficient.
Sallie Shuping-Russell, chairwoman of the board’s audit and finance committee, presented the changes to the board for approval after her committee approved the plan Wednesday.
With the new system, the student transportation fee will increase by $14 annually beginning next fall to cover students’ share of transit costs and reduce parking subsidies.
Starting in 2013-14, student permit prices will see increases of $5.78 to $7.60 per year and employee permits will increase by $5.70 to $16.13 per year as determined by a sliding scale that determines prices based on income.
Although the Department of Public Safety has been engaged with the student body, Medlin said the plan as a whole was derived without significant input from students.
Zach Smith, the liaison between student government and the advisory committee on transportation that drafted and submitted the plan, said the board had almost finished the proposal when it was presented to him.
“I don’t feel like there was enough consideration of student views,” Smith said. “I feel like when I joined the board in October, they had already completed the plan in June.”
Under the current system, students pay about 30 percent of transit costs, but that portion will go up to about 40 percent in the new plan, Medlin said at the meeting.
He said students deserve a vote on the Chapel Hill transit board. In that capacity, they would have more input regarding routes and bus schedule times.
Jeff McCracken, chief and director of DPS, said students were involved in the department’s open forums and in the advisory committee, which has a representative for both undergraduate and graduate students.
“My perspective of students’ involvement and that of the student body president vary greatly,” McCracken said.
Dakota Williams, student body treasurer, said students were shown a completed plan but should have had a role in its creation.
“I think it’s a very student unfriendly plan,” he said. “Students are paying for a lot more and not getting anything else out of it.”
After meeting once with McCracken, Medlin formed a task force whose leaders met twice with McCracken to talk about the plan.
McCracken said student suggestions were implemented, such as changing nighttime parking to an overall fee of $10.40 instead of an expensive permit — and exempting freshmen from that fee.
He added that his department worked to promote student involvement about the plan through emails and open forums.
McCracken said he has had discussions with the town of Chapel Hill about adding a student to the Chapel Hill transportation board.
“We’re doing what we can to facilitate that and I’m sure it will happen,” he said. “There’s actually two vacancies on the town transportation board now, so we’ll be working to see if we can get somebody on there.”
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