Deal with city gov’t leases buses to university
University of Louisiana at Lafayette now has the opportunity to employ Lafayette city buses as transportation between Cajun Field and campus for its students and faculty members, according to university and city-parish officials.
On Aug. 19, the City-Parish Council approved an agreement with the university to use up to five city buses, adding to the fleet of 11 buses and three shuttles presently in use. However, the agreement also calls on the university to purchase compressed natural gas from the city government to run the buses. The city transitioned to natural-gas buses in 2011, but the expected date for a full conversion isn’t until 2020.
“This will minimize the wait time at Cajun Field for our students, and by taking buses from Cajun Field to campus, or using a bus to travel to other parts of the city, students can help ease traffic congestion in Lafayette,” UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie stated.
Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley also said the proposal is intended to be a pilot project to determine if the increases in fuel revenue and federal grants are worth it for city-parish government.
“We have under-utilized infrastructure with our bus fleet, and UL has a need for more comprehensive transit services for their students,” said City-Parish President Joey Durel. “We are all extremely excited about the potential of this partnership for both the university and for our transit system.”
But Tuesday’s meeting provided some conflict concerning the initial proposition, originally stating the university would have been responsible for the buses’ maintenance and routine repairs, while city-parish government would be responsible for paying for the 20 percent match required for the federal funds used for upkeep of the bus fleet.
Several council members, like Kenneth Boudreaux, who stated, “I feel we have some exposure that I would rather not have,” questioned whether the additional usage of the buses would make up for the potential loss to the government if any of the vehicles require extensive repairs.
Some members also questioned giving free rides to UL Lafayette students, while other residents must pay. The bus fares currently stand at $1 for adults or $3 for a day pass.
About 4,000 riders currently utilize the city’s transportation system each a day. City-Parish Chief Development Officer Kevin Blanchard said the additional UL Lafayette students might add another 2,500 to 3,000 daily riders.
The council modified and voted unanimously in approval of the new agreement, leaving UL Lafayette accountable for the 20 percent match. The council also removed the proposal that would have enabled university students and faculty to ride buses for free anywhere within the city limits. This was initially aimed to secure more federal transportation dollars and increase the number of riders each day.
“I’ve been to larger cities that utilize public transportation, and I actually found that I liked using them because it was an easy way to get around,” stated sophomore psychology major Katie Richard. “But that’s the thing—Lafayette buses are not reliable. If I knew the buses would arrive when they say they would—and not 10 minutes late—then I’d consider using them, so I probably wouldn’t use the city buses outside of school.
“I’m one of the thousands of students that has to park at Cajun Field, and it’s aggravating when you make sure to arrive with enough time to get to class, and you’re still late because the buses are just backed up. I think it will be a nice change to have so many buses at the students’ disposal.”
Cheri Soileau, director of UL Lafayette’s Office of Transportation Services, said she will have to bring the amended proposal back to the university’s administration for a decision on whether to move forward.