Two weeks ago UCF launched KnightLynx, a late night bus service to local nightlife aimed at keeping drunk students off the road, much like the University of Florida’s Later Gator bus line.
But KnightNews.com has uncovered that although the purpose of buses are the same, the way both bus lines are funded is very different. And the way UCF funds its bus impacts the pool of money students use to travel to present research.
UCF’s Student Government Association is footing the entire bill for KnightLynx, which comes to about $100,000 each year for two lines. The money comes from mandatory UCF student activity and service fees collected by SGA, which fund things like student trips to national conferences to present research as well as the UCF gym and Student Union.
At UF, no Student Government money is used to fund its late bus service. Instead, the administration pays for the much larger bus line through a special fee set up to support transportation.
“For the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2011, the university has budgeted $625,000 for Later Gator,” UF spokesman Steve Orlando told KnightNews.com. “The money comes from student transportation fees.”
Video from the KnightLynx Ribbon Cutting Ceremony:
KnightNews.com has also uncovered that UF students pay less in transportation and access fees than UCF students do. UF students pay $7.33 per credit hour, while UCF students pay $8.19 — almost the highest in the entire State University System, according to the Florida Board of Governors.
When it comes to the activity and service fees SGA collects, which fund registered student organizations — and the KnightLynx bus at UCF — there’s also a disparity. UF students pay $13.94 per credit hour for activity and service fees while UCF students pay only $10.79.
The bottom line: Even though UF’s activity and service fee is higher than UCF’s, and UF’s transportation fee is lower than UCF’s, UF manages to refrain from using any Student Government money to fund its much larger version of KnightLynx. Orlando also confirmed UF pays the entire direct cost of putting those buses and drivers on the road each night.
Students we talked to were concerned that UCF SGA is spending student activity and service fee money that could go towards sending students to conferences or hosting bigger Late Knight or CAB events on a bus, even though UCF students already pay such a high transportation fee.
“I’m in the salsa club, Latin Rhythm, and I know thousands of other students are in clubs that like to go to conventions and host activities, but without funding we can’t do very much,” UCF student Laura Oergel told KnightNews.com, after we randomly asked for student feedback on Facebook.
KnightNews.com reached out to the SGA Vice Chairman of the Conference Registration and Travel Senate Committee, which allocates money to student clubs, to see if that $100,000 annually allocated to go toward the bus would make an impact in his budget to help students pay for conferences.
“It would be nice if we could find a way to save those (activity and service fee) ASF funds for more use for students conferences seeing as we are always close to running out,” Vice Chair Eric Katz said. “Since we already have transportation fees outside of our ASF budget it would make sense to use that money to fund knightlynx instead of the student’s Activity and Service fee money.”
KnightNews.com emailed SGA’s Public Relations representative this morning to ask if SGA tried bargaining with the UCF administration to see if it would chip in some transportation fee money to support KnightLynx. She did not immediately get back to us yet.
Another concern students have pointed out with KnightLynx is what they consider a lack of advertising of the service to regular students.
“I feel that if they better advertised the service and more importantly, how and when students could access it, more students would use it and the transportation fee would be more appropriate,” Oergel said, later adding that she does not approve of using SGA’s activity and service fee to fund the bus.
“As it is, most students either don’t know what it is, or don’t know when it’s available to them,” she said.
The bus has gotten mixed reviews from other students we talked with.
“I’m so happy my student fees get to take care of drunk people,” John Gavin posted on our Facebook page, sarcastically adding “awesome” at the end of his comment.
Other students, like freshman Albert James DeLaere, who didn’t have access to a car after the basketball game during KnightLynx’s first weekend in service, said he used it to grab ice cream with friends, and supports it.
“It allowed my friends and I to have a fantastic night out at Waterford the weekend it opened,
DeLaere posted. “IT IS AMAZING. but could use some nicer bus drivers, one wasnt so nice.”
But the question remains, is it worth about $100,000 a year in student fees?
Ridership hasn’t been huge. According to Matt Friedman, a spokesman for Lynx, the first weekend 358 people rode it while 350 people did so the second weekend. It’s a slight drop, but it shows the service is shrinking, not growing.
SGA spokeswoman Kayla Torpey said the first week’s attendance exceeded SGA’s goal and added that SGA shopped around to two bus companies, and went with Lynx because it was the lowest price and best deal for students.
SGA funding is only approved through the end of this fiscal year, so if the Senate isn’t convinced the program is attracting enough ridership and worth the $100,000 in student fees, Senate could put the brakes on the program, causing KnightLynx to make its last stop before July.
KnightNews.com will continue updating you on KnightLynx. We have a crew at its official launch ceremony right now, and will post video once we get it. KnightNews.com also reached out to FSU to find out details about its bus service, but we have not yet heard back.