The Saluki Express bus service, a mass transit system used often by students at Southern Illinois University has announced it will be combining a few routes beginning in the summer semester.
Lori Stettler, interim vice chancellor of Student Affairs, said the move isn’t due to decreased ridership and isn’t due to the state budget issue – funds for the service are paid through student fees, — but the enrollment numbers did have an impact. She said Mass Transit Advisory Board, consisting of students, faculty, staff and community members advises the university on services provided by the Saluki Express.
“In preparing for the next budget year, we have determined that due to decreased enrollment this year, which in turn means fewer fee-paying students, we would need to trim the budget in FY18,” Stettler said in an email. “The only way to do so is to review the routes.”
The Saluki Express has typically offered full service during the summer session, but Stettler said the decrease of students on campus makes these services no longer economically feasible. She said at the suggestion of the advisory board, the university will streamline the routes down to two starting in the summer of 2017.
The existing Airport Route will be renamed the Summer West Route, which will take students from campus to the airport and Automotive Tech Center and includes service to Murdale Shopping Center, Stettler said. The existing Break Route will be renamed the Summer East Route, which will be slightly modified to service Park Street and Grand Avenue.
All other routes including the East, West, Grand Avenue, Late Night, Mall, Crosstown, Crosstown Weekend and the South will not run from May 14 through Aug. 18. The cancellation of these routes during the summer will save an estimated $166,312. After factoring in the costs associated with the Summer West Route and the Summer East Route, total savings will be $131,985, she said.
As for the fall 2017 semester, more changes will be coming to the way the service operates.
The service will combine the east and west routes. Stettler said these two routes cover much of the same ground, only in opposite directions.
“In addition, the East services SIU Arena (commuter parking) and the Towers, while the West services Morris Library and Lesar Law School,” she said. “Each route is a 20-minute circuit. A 30-minute loop will be configured that will service SIU Arena, the Towers, and the Law School.”
For those wanting to reach Morris Library with the service, Stettler said those students will need to exit the bus on Lincoln Drive and walk, because of the size of the bus needed for that route. She said the bus must be small enough to make the sharp turn in the Morris Library parking lot.
She said combining those routes will bring a savings of $120,000 a year.
Additionally, the Break Route will be cancelled in the fall of 2017, Stettler said.
“As our primary role is serving the transportation needs of fee-paying students, the luxury of running this service over the break when students are not on campus is no longer viable,” she said. “The $14,000 contribution by the city of Carbondale does not cover the $50,000 plus cost of providing service to the community. The fare revenue from non-student riders does not create enough revenue to make this service feasible.”
Stettler said since 2007, the Saluki Express has seen an increase of 87,766 annual riders and the break route has seen an increase of 383 riders. The south route has been the route realizing a decrease. She said since 2013, the route has a decrease of 5,163 riders.