In the growing campus and community of UC Merced, many changes are still being made to utilize the school’s full potential. Among these changes include amendments to the current transportation system: including the plan to institute new eligibility requirements for riding the Heritage express bus route. On January 18th, UC Merced Transportation and Parking services (TAPS) sent an email detailing these changes, explaining that the main reason for the change in the service requirements was to attempt to resolve the current trend of bus “overcrowding.” To combat these issues, TAPS has decided to roll out a new system which requires requires residents to possess a Heritage Express specific bus pass to be permitted to ride the bus. This change becomes active on Friday, February 1st, and will continue through May 31st “at which time [the cards] will expire and be deactivated.” The result of this change is that “students without a Heritage Express pass will not be allowed to ride, no exceptions.” What is most important to note about this, is the fact that “this pass is separate from your UC Merced CatCard,” which has lead to many students to question the expenses that will be associated with this process. Students jumped on the issue quickly, asking for clarification for the vague description of the changes to come.
As to be expected with such a big change, the students have many strong opinions on the issue. Some have argued that this change is punishing the students who live in heritage, but not through the university, while others have said that if they aren’t paying for the housing, the students should not be permitted ridership. Soon enough, there were several posts circulating around UC Merced Classifieds of students presenting their perspectives.
Students have also begun to criticize the bigger issue of UC Merced transportation as a whole. Many individuals have pointed out the difficulties surrounding UC parking, in addition to the unpredictability and infrequency of the bus system. From the raising of the fence surrounding the student parking lot, to the regular route delays, students feel as if transportation is not an easily accessible or reliable service. One UC student also pointed out the increasing need for housing and travel which has been created by such a rapidly growing campus, commenting on how the supply is falling behind the demand.
In response to the proposed Heritage bus passes, students have created and begun to sign a change.org petition to stop the UC from prematurely enacting the Heritage bus pass system.
Students are also skeptical about how successful this system will be, due to the fact that two years ago, TAPS attempted a very similar thing.
Nonetheless, it is an important issue for students to become informed about, especially those who may be affected by this change. Heritage bus pass distribution has already begun, and the official implementation is due to take place February 1st.
Follow up article will be posted later today.