Towson University drops shuttle service that drove students around area for free

$30,000 amenity is cut over budget concerns

September 10, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Towson University students will have a harder time getting around this year.

The school has severed its ties with the Baltimore Collegetown Network shuttle, a service that carried thousands of Towson students to five other area schools and to Towson Town Center, because the university was unwilling to pay the nearly $30,000 annual fee.

Towson has participated in the program since 1999, but school officials say they are trying to cut expenses because the state's public university system is financially strapped.

"I love the idea of Collegetown buses, but you can't just keep doing everything in tough economic times. You have to figure out where to trim," said Towson President Robert L. Caret.

Many students say the service was valuable, especially for underclassmen who don't have cars and have to take classes at other schools.

"It's a bad thing for everybody except the cab companies," said Jeremy Kovacs, a sophomore from Springfield, N.J.

The shuttle now runs between Goucher College, the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Loyola College, the Johns Hopkins University, Maryland Institute College of Art and the shopping mall. The service runs from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. most weekdays and from 10:30 a.m. to midnight weekends. It is free to students and faculty from those schools.

It is operated by the Baltimore Collegetown Network, a nonprofit organization that promotes the city as an inviting area for students and recent graduates.

Towson was the only public institution that participated in the service. The school will continue to pay about $30,000 a year to participate in Collegetown's marketing campaigns, Caret said.

Like all schools in the University System of Maryland, Towson is under pressure to cut costs. System regents are considering whether to sell or rent properties, and regents also have discussed cost-cutting measures like requiring more students to take classes online and raising fees.

Towson officials said they were not sure how many students used the shuttle but calculated that it cost the university between $6 and $12 each time one did.

"To me, it almost makes more sense to give them $5 to take a cab," Caret said.

Collegetown officials said about 6,000 Towson students used the service last year and that the per-trip cost was about $5. Collegetown officials also pointed out that students from other institutions who took the shuttle to the Towson campus are affected by the change.

"There are students at Hopkins and Goucher that are taking courses at Towson and they're pretty upset," said Kristen Campbell, Collegetown's director. "If you're a college student, there really aren't a lot of good transportation options."

Most students take the shuttle for social reasons, according to a Collegetown survey conducted last spring, and many at Towson said it would be difficult to visit friends or places in Baltimore.

Freshman Krystle Trammell of Temple Hills in Prince George's County said she has about 10 friends attending area schools and had been looking forward to taking the shuttle to visit them. Trammell doesn't have a car.

"I'm disappointed because it's not like you can walk to Johns Hopkins very easily," she said.

Al Weiss, a junior from Pikesville, said he took the shuttle once a week to go to bars in Baltimore and said he appreciated that the service was free.

"We're broke college students," he said. "We'd rather spend our money on beer and pizza and not a cab."

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