Saluki Express could reduce service, cut routes
Two bus routes that run through Carbondale and the university campus could cease operation as the service’s revenue decreases with student enrollment, according to university officials.
Saluki Express, a mass transit system used primarily by students, offers seven weekday routes and three weekend routes during school sessions. University administrators are considering combining the east and west routes, but the service’s break route and south route are “on the chopping block,” said Bill Bruns, deputy director of the student center.
Bruns said the removal of the two routes would be a last-resort measure, but it is still under consideration.
The south route is the only public transportation offered for students who live in Evergreen Terrace and The Reserve at Saluki Pointe. The break route is used by students who stay on campus when school is out of session.
“We could potentially see combining the routes if we see more funding,” Bruns said. “But that’s a decision for the chancellor.”
Carbondale currently gives $14,000 to the service. Bruns said that is enough to cover the break route, but most of the public transportation service’s $1.2 million budget comes from student fees.
Students pay $50.50 annually to use Saluki Express. This fee is expected to stay the same next year, Bruns said, even after the cuts and declining student use.
Bruns said 95 percent of riders are students. He said the service also has seen a decrease of 150,704 total riders since 2007.
Since 2013, when the routes were created, the break route has seen a usage decrease of 6,935 rides and the south route a decrease of 33,427.
“The problem we are seeing here is that a lot of students are taking online classes off campus, so we don’t have the revenue we used to,” Bruns said.
During the most recent Undergraduate Student Government meeting Feb. 7, Senator Kevin Lindsay highlighted the impacts of cutting the break route primarily used by the university’s international students.
Lindsay said while many students go home during breaks, international students are left on campus by themselves. Without the break route, he said, there would be no student public transportation from campus around town.
“We need to watch out for our international students now more than ever,” Lindsay said. “Taking their transportation away doesn’t do that.”