Gold Line shuttle returns despite talk of canceling route

Sacramento State Shuttle Bus, photo credit: Nicole Lundgren

Sacramento State Shuttle Bus, photo credit: Nicole Lundgren

Brett Johnson

Plans to discontinue the Gold Line, a route for the Hornet Express Shuttle, have been halted by the university. The proposed removal of the route had been scheduled for fall 2011 resulting from a lack of funding.

The cost of running the shuttle was exceeding the revenue available for the shuttle program, according to an announcement the university made through the Sacramento State Bulletin in November 2010.

Instead of removing the Gold Line, ridership data will be examined along with other means of cutting expenditures, according to University Transportation and Parking Services Senior Director Nancy Fox.

The Gold Line provides shuttle service to Arden Way, Exposition Boulevard, Fair Oaks Boulevard, Fulton Avenue, Northrop Avenue and Howe Avenue. This shuttle route has been in use for 22 years.

“It’s one of our busiest routes,” Fox said. “The problem with the Gold Line isn’t the ridership, it’s the redundancy. Most of the locations reached by the Gold Line are overlapping with the routes taken by the Sacramento Regional Transit.”

The high-traffic streets taken by the Gold Line are also frequented by the Regional Transit buses at regular periods of time. Regional Transit is cost-free for Sacramento State students upon presentation of a OneCard inside of a valid student commuter sleeve.

“We work very closely with Sacramento State,” said Regional Transit spokeswoman Alane Masui. “We offer transportation services where they are needed, and as far as I know, there wouldn’t be a problem with offering those services to a larger volume of students.”

Many students would have been forced to use Regional Transit as an alternate means of transportation had the plan to eradicate the Gold Line gone through. For Sac State student Kyler Levine, freshman criminal justice major, having to use Regional Transit would have made for an easy transition.

“I’ve used both,” Levine said. “The Gold Line shuttle makes a stop slightly closer to where I live, and that’s really the only reason I prefer it.”

Senior speech-language pathology and audiology major Stephanie Borja has chosen to ride on the Gold Line every day for nearly a year, but the Regional Transit only twice.

“The amount of stops that the Regional Transit buses have to make seems to cause some delay,” Borja said. “It’s not that I would really protest having to use Regional Transit, but the Hornet Shuttle seems to make the commute to school much faster.”

Sac State student Amanda Tilley said she would have started driving to school if the Gold Line had been removed, and was thankful that the plans had been temporarily put on hold.

“The Regional Transit buses are gross,” Tilley said.

For now, the future of the Gold Line remains uncertain for students using the shuttle.

“I cannot say what will eventually happen with the Gold Line,” Fox said, “The last thing I’ve heard from higher-ups is that the route will continue running on the new schedule.”

Schedule changes implemented this semester will reduce the amount of hours that all three shuttle lines will be in commission. The proposal to both remove the Gold Line and change the schedules was made by UTAPS in November 2010.

Shuttles that were once in operation Monday through Friday from 6:50 a.m. to 7 p.m. will now only operate between 7:40 and 10:15 a.m. and again between 2:20 and 4:55 p.m. Stops along the Hornet Line will be visited at a higher frequency, from every 40 minutes to every 10 minutes. Service on the Gold Line will remain at 40-minute intervals.

Collected ridership data indicated that fewer students were using the shuttles earlier than 7:30 a.m., between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and after 5 p.m., according to the November 2010 announcement.

The schedule changes that affected the operation of shuttles during these times came about in an effort to further cut back on expenses, Fox said.

“We monitor what routes have the highest volumes of riders and during what times. This is how we usually decide on what shuttles and routes are terminated when there’s funding problems,” Fox said.

Students that are employed as shuttle drivers have their own concerns about the potential outcome of schedule changes and the Gold Line.

Shuttle driver David Hart said that his working hours have been reduced from 16 hours a week to only five or six hours following the recent changes.

“My hours have already been halved because of the new schedule, and I can’t imagine how things would be if the Gold Line had been removed.” Hart said. “The real problem lies in the funding. The school puts their name on the side of these buses, yet these shuttles are funded completely by the money made from parking tickets and fines &- the school gives us nothing.”

Hart continued on to voice his worries about the future of students working as drivers for the Hornet Express Shuttle.

“Let’s just say there won’t be any drivers hired for a long, long time,” Hart said.

The revenue garnered through parking citations continues to be the sole source of funding for the Hornet Express Shuttles going into the fall 2011 semester.

The university will gather ridership data for all routes following its suspension of plans to get rid of the Gold Line, according to the UTAPS website. There is no word on when the topic of the Gold Line’s elimination will be revisited.

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]