Question: As a student from Washington State, I have used the shuttle numerous times to travel to the Asheville Airport for breaks. I was recently informed that the school has decided to use a outside company that charges for this service. Though it was an extra, non required service, it was very disappointing to see it cut. I do understand that the college is seeing a loss in revenue, and that it was perhaps difficult to coordinate. However, our campus is fairly remote, and the inefficiency of the Asheville Transit System leaves students with two options: either struggle to find someone with a vehicle or pay 40$ more to get home for break.
I see two major issues with this, the first being that many more people will drive individual cars to the airport, instead of carpooling together in a large group. This seems much more unsustainable, and would increase the student body’s overall carbon footprint. In addition, freshman students often don’t have friends with cars, and are therefore forced to pay the extra 40$. In a time when retention issues are becoming more and more of a concern, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense to cut a service that freshman (who are most likely to drop out) depend on. Even for those that are not freshman, this move presents to the student body a strong message: the administration is not thinking nor caring about us like they used to. I’ve spoken with friends, neighbors, classmates, and coworkers about this issue; they all share my disappointment and frustration with the college.
I love and deeply care about this community, and I strongly believe that we need to work harder as a community to encourage and increase retention. What can I do to reinstate this thoughtful and free service? Would the administration listen if students made petitions or came up with a more efficient management system for the shuttle service? How can we work to bringing this service back to the community, instead of drawing in outside contractors and making the institution less sustainable?
I look forward to your thoughts on this issue.
Answer: I met with President Pfeiffer today and I am responding to you on behalf of him and the College.
I attended the Caucus meeting last evening and provided a bit of history on how and why we arrived at the decision to hire Young Transportation and add a fee for using their services. My response will hopefully be posted in the Caucus minutes (check their website!) but let me leave you with a quick synopsis on why WWC can no longer offer free airport shuttle transportation. This information is based on a report that was submitted to PAC last year through Student Services:
1. Lack of availability of vehicles
2. Lack of qualified 14 passenger drivers
3. Break trips conflict with shuttle vehicle requirements.
4. Vehicle capacity does not match the number of individuals showing up for a ride. Last fall break 116 students signed up and close to 140 showed up for a ride.
5. Students sign up for a shuttle and then don’t show up. Every time we put a vehicle on the road, we put a driver and vehicle at risk.
6. Lack of finding a qualified and willing driver for the 4:00am shuttles.
7. Lack of finding a qualified and willing driver for late evening arrivals. The last flight of the day is at midnight and many students take this flight. When the plane is late, the driver ends up at the airport until 1:00am or later.
8. Difficulty in scheduling qualified student drivers around their class times and shuttle times.
The transportation dilemma reaches beyond just the airport shuttles. Every program area on campus is having difficulty finding qualified drivers and vehicles for their events.
Please know that we are doing the best we can to address this issue and improve and respond to the needs of students. The issues are many and the President and PAC members are continuing their pursuit in finding a solution that addresses the issues of safety, liability, sustainability, efficiency, and cost effectiveness.
Thank you for your very thoughtful and sincere letter. We are taking this issue very seriously and your feedback matters greatly.
Academic Support Services Instructor
Campus Governance Communications Coordinator