Spring Break Transportation Saves Students Money
It cost Eli Bliss ’20, Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President for Student Life, $50 for a Lyft from the Albany Airport to campus after Winter Break. While sitting in the Lyft, Eli realized “that Skidmore students contribute a disgusting amount of money to the cab, Uber and Lyft economy getting from Albany to campus and vise-versa" and "got to thinking that SGA and/or Skidmore as an institution should work on a way to shuttle students to and from campus and their points of transportation, for at least large move-in/move-out days.”
This is where the idea for the Spring Break travel program came from.
For Spring Break 2018, SGA and the President’s office partnered together to offer students transportation to and from the Albany Airport, train station and bus station.
“In line with the access and sustainability goals in our Strategic Plan, Creating Pathways to Excellence, we were pleased to partner with SGA to provide another option for our students to travel back and forth to campus surrounding Spring Break,” said Skidmore President, Phillip A. Glotzbach.
This wasn’t the first time Skidmore tried to offer this sort of transportation: “About ten years ago we ran some break busses to the airport etc. out of my office [Leadership Activities] but we didn’t have funding and had to do it as a break-even program so there was not a insignificant charge to students,” said Robin Adams, Director of Leadership Activities. This program was not very successful as it was difficult to determine the right times to go and the times that would help the most number of students.
Tayler Salvatore ‘18, SGA President, and Bliss conceived the idea of running a transportation program this year in a meeting together. Salvatore then brought this issue up at a meeting with the President and the President’s Cabinet. Together, they developed this pilot program with the help of Adams, Joshua Woodfork (Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity and Executive Director of the Office of the President), and President Glotzbach.
This year’s program was different from the one ten years ago, as students did not have to pay to participate. All students had to do was wear some Skidmore gear and show the driver their Skidmore ID.
“In our travels across the country as ambassadors for Skidmore, Marie and I are buoyed when we see symbols of Skidmore pride, so we encourage students to display Skidmore gear as part of this effort,” said Glotzbach.
The cost to run the program was $1,600 per day of travel (totaling $3,200), and was evenly split between SGA and the President’s office. The bus was offered on the two main days of travel (Friday before Spring Break and Sunday after Spring Break) at pre-set times, based on when students said their bus, train, or plane was. But the times were also arranged around the fact that there was only going to be one bus to use for all the trips.
In the end, over 125 people expressed interest in the program, saying they would have used the service had the bus times been more frequent or if the bus had been offered on alternate days, and 79 students took advantage of the service. Also, due to limited funds and resources, the program could not accommodate every student.
Based on some calculations done by Salvatore, “in total, the students that used the program would have paid Ubers/cabs $4,345 for transportation, if not more.” (Calculations are based on estimated average cost $55 x 79 students). This means that the partnership decreased the overall cost by $1,145, and alleviated students of this cost completely.
There was a general consensus from the people I spoke to that the program was a success; this sentiment is shared among SGA as well.
“Going forward, I would like to expand the program to offer free travel for students for Thanksgiving Break, Winter Break and Spring Break,” said Salvatore. Currently, SGA is looking into how to make this possible. They are trying to determine the total cost of doing so and are asking for a partnership between themselves, the President’s Office and the Dean of Student’s Office in order to split the cost.
“We can also partner with other offices, but I am not sure what other offices would be pertinent,” said Salvatore. Should these funds be allocated, SGA will take care of all advertising and logistics. How this will be done is a discussion that is being had in the SGA Senate and with the SGA Executive Committee. Most likely though, SGA will create a Transportation Commission that will handle and manage transportation initiatives including Safe Rides, Transport Fund and Break Travel.
“I believe this is a very valuable program, and I would love to see it continue after I am no longer here to run it,” said Salvatore.
This isn’t the only initiative SGA is undertaking this semester to alleviate student costs- click here for a piece on SGA partnering with the counseling center to alleviate student taxi costs to counseling appointments