Academic Staff Assembly Document #444
13 December 2010
Comments on Options for Addressing Budget Deficits in Transportation Services
From the Compensation and Economic Benefits Committee
November 17, 2010
Based on a request from the Academic Staff Executive Committee, the Compensation and Economic Benefits Committee was asked to “study how the transportation funding and plans for making up their deficit impacts staff and report their findings to the Assembly."
Transportation Services, an auxiliary of the University, is facing an annual budget deficit of nearly $1 million in FY11. In order to maintain the current number of parking spaces on campus, they will need an additional $1.3 million. Their costs are rising largely due to construction of parking structures, and revenues are falling due to lost surface-lot parking spaces among other causes. The new parking structures being built are significantly contributing to their debt (and rising interest cost) problem. After several open meetings around campus, as well as extensive work on the part of Transportation Services staff to identify all possible avenues for new revenue , they came up with several options as listed in the document “Transportation Services Draft 2011-2012 Program Changes September 2, 2010”, a draft of which was provided to this subcommittee but is still under discussion by Transportation Services. There are two options that we deem most likely to affect academic staff: increased fees for bus passes and evening permits.
Bus Pass Program
Since 2003, bus passes have been provided to all University employees as an annual benefit, at no charge to the employee. This program was initiated to help address parking congestion on campus and to encourage use of public transportation. In FY 10, Transportation Services paid Madison Metro $0.95 per ride taken on a UW/Hospital Employee bus pass, for a total annual cost of $1.4 million. In FY11, this rate has increased to $1.15 per ride. In order to offset some of this cost, one option under consideration is to charge $50 per year for bus passes.
There are 10,819 active bus passes on campus that are used by staff and faculty; however, only 6,036 of those passes are used more than 50 times per year. With a proposed charge of $50 for a bus pass and a normal Madison Metro charge of $2.00 per ride, a UW employee would have to ride the bus 25 times per year to make the pass worth paying for. If we assume that that all of 6,036 people who ride more than 50 times per year would buy a pass, the additional revenue provided by charging for bus passes is approximately $300,000. This revenue would be used to offset some of the annual $1.5 million cost of the bus pass program.
Data on the income levels of bus pass holders and their usage was not available. However, we did analyze the results of a UW-Madison employee survey by Transportation Services. Recognizing that the surveyed employees may or may not have been bus pass users, it was a statistically valid representative sample of UW-Madison employees, and therefore we used the information to draw some tentative conclusions.
1. Transportation Services should not implement a charge for bus passes. First, the cost of the pass is a direct financial loss to academic staff. Secondly, while difficult to quantify, loss of economic benefits in an era where all employees are experiencing lower incomes due to state furloughs and the loss of yearly increases (creating effective decreases in pay) is an important concern. Taking away the utility and convenience of the free bus pass will further damage morale. Finally, it may decrease bus use which hurts Madison Metro and University sustainability goals if employees opt for private transportation.
2.Most of the university community is probably unaware that Transportation Services pays each time they ride the bus. A public education campaign on this fact could help reduce costs as riders might think twice about riding the bus very short distances, or might consider the use of free on-campus bus routes. 3.If it is determined that the budget situation no longer allows for free bus passes, cost should be on a sliding scale determined by income as discussed below. The standard pass price could be set at $50/year, which makes a subsidized pass cheaper than paying regular bus fare for any rider who rides more than 34 times per year.
Of those responding to the survey, approximately 24% of those who reported using the bus every day in good weather (people we can assume use it as their primary means of transportation to and from work, and therefore very likely to purchase passes) make less than $35,000/year. In order to mitigate the financial burden on those least able to pay, we recommend those making less than $35,000/year be offered passes at a rate of $25/year.
While it could also be argued that those employees with higher income should be charged a higher rate for their pass, usage data indicates this may not be a wise strategy. While individuals making more than $75,000 comprised 25% of the bus pass holders responding to the survey, 80% of the respondents in this salary range reported never riding the bus in good weather. Since they do not appear to be regular riders, some of these individuals may purchase a pass as a convenience at a $50 rate; but many may fail to see value at a higher cost.
1.Transportation Services should offer options for different types of passes. This could include winter passes, limited ride passes, and other alternatives that could capture revenue from staff unwilling to pay the cost of a full pass if they are not a regular rider. There could also be 20 ride passes that are offered free, while unlimited ride passes are sold under the above guidelines. This would allow employees to maintain the convenience of the pass without incurring unnecessarily high cost.
2.Transportation Services should work with payroll to allow bus pass costs to be paid via pre-tax payroll deduction. Since this is offered to those who have annual parking permits, it seems fair that these advantages should be extended to bus pass users. This was the practice prior to 2003 when there was a charge for bus passes.
Additional revenue can be gained by selling evening permits as most gated parking lots sell permits until 4:30 p.m. However, charging for evening parking will adversely impact academic staff that conduct evening programs or have evening commitments.
While academic staff who elect to drive to campus and park during the day obviously have to purchase parking, at night individuals have many fewer options as bus service is extremely limited and walking or biking is not as safe. Given there are fewer transportation options for these academic staff we recommend the following:
1.Academic staff that conduct evening programs or have evening commitments should be offered no-cost or low-cost parking permits. Many academic staff work outside regular business hours, including to participate in student life which is strongly encouraged. Charging for evening parking could discourage participation in student life.
2.Offer "Evening Only" free parking permits to departments.
3.All baselot parking permits should be valid for parking in that lot at all hours, even if evening permits are now required.
4.While most 2nd and 3rd shift workers are not academic staff, it is still worth noting that many of them are at low income levels and would be adversely affected by having to purchase a permit. These workers should be given access to free parking via application if their primary working hours are outside Madison Metro service hours.
5.Transportation Services should work with groups on campus who may be offering free parking as a service to participants in weekend events and trainings. It is important that adequate parking remain available for this purpose.