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Bus routes help Texas State commuters avoid pinch at the pump

By Meagan Singletary
University News Service
July 1, 2008

The price of oil is up to $140 a barrel, bringing gas prices in the Austin, San Marcos and San Antonio areas to just under $4 a gallon and rising according to AAA. To avoid feeling burned at the pump, Texas State University-San Marcos students and faculty living in the Austin or San Antonio areas can opt to ride the Bobcat Tram for a fraction of the price.

The cost is $4 each way, or passes of 10 rides for $32.50 can be purchased at the information desk in the LBJ Student Center as well as HEB locations in San Marcos, New Braunfels and Kyle.

While the bus to Austin has been operating for a number of years and the San Antonio bus was added in August of 2006, many students and faculty don’t know about the service or may feel unsure about using it.

“I think I was a little apprehensive the first time I took the bus because I was so unsure about the exact location of the stops and how convenient it would be, but you just need to ride it once to iron those things out,” said Cindy Royal, associate professor in the school of journalism.

Royal initially began using the bus to reduce wear-and-tear on her car, but saving money on gas is another added benefit.

“Since gas prices have skyrocketed, I think I will be increasing my usage of the service,” said Royal.

Paul Hamilton, manager of shuttle systems, said inflating gas prices have been a catalyst driving the increase of bus users in the last three years.

“Three years ago we were only operating six routes a day to Austin; now we operate that much service in the summer,” said Hamilton. “Three years ago we weren’t even providing summer service. Our Austin service has more than doubled in that period of time--it’s almost tripled.”

The bus services help students who commute make it to campus even if they don’t have the money for gas.

“Students are putting a whole tank of gas in their vehicle just to get back and forth between school, and then add on a job or other personal trips and they’re dipping into their wallets, if they have a good car,  $50 to $70 a week just to keep driving,” said Hamilton.

“I don’t know if they’ve (the buses) attracted more students to Texas State, but just from listening to the conversations of the folks on the bus, it certainly has helped some of them be retained,” said Hamilton.

This is important because Texas State is increasingly becoming a commuter school, said Hamilton.

“If you look at our enrollment we are very much a commuter school,” he said. “Nearly half of our entire service population that comes here to school every day lives outside of the 78666 zip code. They don’t live on campus, they don’t live in San Marcos.”

Hamilton, who rides the bus almost everyday if he doesn’t bike, said riding the bus has been a good way for him to kill two birds with one stone.

“That’s an alternative for me that I enjoy: The ability to work out and to get to work at the exact same time,” he said. “I can rearrange my schedule and bike in the morning and ride the bus home in the afternoon because we have bike racks.”

Students and faculty may also find that taking the bus is advantageous for multitasking.

“Benefits are being able to read or work or just relax during the ride, rather than having to worry about traffic,” said Royal. “Taking the bus is easy and convenient.”

In Austin there are bus stops at Highland Mall, the Greyhound Station, Waterloo Park and Slaughter and Congress. In San Antonio there is a stop at Randolph Park and Ride. There are also intermediate stops in New Braunfels and Kyle.

“I think this is a fantastic service to the university community, and it can only help to attract more students to Texas State,” said Royal.

For more information, visit the Bobcat Tram site online at www.aux-srvcs.txstate.edu/tram.htm.