Gas prices have decreased during the past few weeks from $3.85 or more to $2.75 or less per gallon, but Amarillo College students, staff and faculty still say they struggle with the cost of getting to class, especially when those classes are on different campuses.
In addition to the cost of fuel, wear and tear and maintenance can add up quickly. A simple oil change can cost up to $29.99.
The trip from the East Campus to the Washington Street Campus is roughly 30 miles both ways. That can add up to almost 500 miles a month of driving.
Now, students and faculty members headed to the East Campus are being offered a different option to get to class or work.
On Oct. 20, AC started a busing project between the Washington Street and East campuses.
“The bus was obtained from the city for free several years ago,” said Bob Mathews, a truck driving instructor on the East Campus.
“Once we had them in good operating order, we discussed with Lyndy Forrester, dean of career and tech education, the possibility of some type of service between the Washington Street and East Campus. She ran with it from there.”
Part-time instructors have been the drivers for the operation.
The idea of the busing project was discussed and planned for about a year before it was brought to life. It was even part of a question on a student survey in 2012.
“During the year of planning, the insurance was taken care of as well as deciding on times for drop-offs and pick-ups,” said Jeff Wallick, external technical training coordinator. “The buses were driven to and from the campuses with a stopwatch to time them.”
Though the project remains in a probationary period, it will continue throughout the semester. The bus will make the drive whether it is full or empty, organizers said.
The goal is to provide regular and consistent service to the students and faculty of the East Campus. The first few weeks have been light on riders, but use is expected to grow as word spreads about the rides.
“There were four employees on the bus the day I rode,” said Janie Roach, a senior staff assistant. “I am excited about the bus and ready to save on gas.”
The project has added a new pick-up and drop-off time in the evening. The bus will pick up at the East Campus at 5 p.m. to cover the classes that end around that time. The last drop at the Washington Street Campus will be about 5:20 p.m. every day.
“Students might worry about starting to ride the bus and the project stopping,” Wallick said. “But it will not stop.”