For 12 years, UNC students and faculty have used the Robertson Scholars bus to travel to and from Duke University’s campus for free.
But the first time in the bus service’s history, UNC students have to pay $2.50 for a one-way bus ride to Duke this semester.
for a non-commuting UNC student to ride one-way to Duke
for a month-long Roberston bus pass
spent last year by UNC on
But Duke students, the other benefactors of the bus system, will not have to pay a cent.
The Robertson Scholars Program decided in fall 2012 to require that Duke and UNC help pay for the bus service after an analysis of rider use found that only five percent of the bus’ riders were Robertson Scholars.
Allen Chan, interim executive director of the Robertson Scholars program, said the program is still subsidizing 85 to 90 percent of the bus costs.
He would not comment on how much the bus service costs the program each year.
“It’s not making much of a dent, but there’s a responsibility,” Chan said. “They really should pay something — there’s a responsibility for universities to pay something.”
UNC covered the cost of GoPasses for students during the spring semester, but UNC’s Advisory Committee on Transportation voted to enact the fees for non-commuting students and faculty members this semester.
All Duke students and staff members are still eligible for free GoPasses from the university, but in order to be eligible for a free GoPass from UNC, a rider must be a student or faculty member who lives outside of Chapel Hill and commutes to UNC.
A roundtrip ticket to Duke on the Robertson Scholars bus costs $5 and a one-month bus pass costs $85.
“UNC had nothing to do with this bus ever, there was no change on UNC’s end,” said Amanda Simmons, manager of UNC’s Commuter Alternatives Program.
“UNC was never supporting this bus. It’s unfortunate that it got changed mid-year or at all, but there aren’t any other shuttles, so it’s a nice thing to have, but not something UNC was providing.”
UNC spent $311,958 on GoPasses from August 2012 to June 2013, Simmons said.
Sam Veraldi, director of Duke’s Parking and Transportation Services, said Duke’s decision to pay for students and staff to use the bus was partly meant to lessen the demand on parking facilities.
Veraldi would not comment on how much money Duke had spent or planned to spend on the GoPasses.
“That’s not a fair number to share for us — we absorb that and it’s part of our operating budget,” he said.
“It’s a fair amount and we’re prepared to handle that.”
John Tallmadge, director of regional services development for Triangle Transit, which operates the Robertson Scholars bus, said the decision on whether to implement bus fees for students was up to each university.
He said his department has not heard many complaints about the fee.
“While people like free and if it’s not free there’s consternation about it, when they understand that the Robertson was providing this for a long period of time and are still making routes possible but need some of it to be paid for, people sort of get that,” Tallmadge said.
But for the members of UNC and Duke’s collaborative groups and clubs, a $5 roundtrip fee could pose a challenge.
Alyssandra Barnes, a journalism major who graduated from UNC last spring, used the Robertson Scholars bus to travel to and from Duke University’s campus for extracurricular work.
As the editor of Duke and UNC’s collaborative publication, Rival Magazine, she said she befriended and networked with dozens of Duke students during her visits. Barnes used Duke’s libraries and sat in on classes, she said.
“Cross-campus collaboration is extremely important — in many ways Duke and UNC are like night and day, but the differences allow fresh perspective,” she said in an email.
“The Robertson Bus fee will alienate Duke (even more) from the UNC student body.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.