Cutting buses in night service

The Pullman City Council collectively approved on Tuesday a measure that would terminate late-night bus services and decrease certain summer evening routes.

Pullman Transit Manager Rod Thornton presented a memorandum last night, which outlined a request made by WSU to not fund Friday and Saturday night bus services for the upcoming school year. A lack of ridership is one reason why Thornton said it is not feasible to continue late-night bus services.

“We’re down to about 47 passengers a night on Friday and 37 passengers on Saturday night, which is roughly seven passengers per hour,” Thornton said. “There are a number of cab companies that are offering really cheap rates to get home on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Thornton said the competition of local taxi services did not always exist.

“Up until two years ago, we were averaging 150-160 rides a night from midnight to 3 a.m. but this year has been the most dramatic decline that I’ve seen,” he said.

Not everyone showed satisfaction for the proposed changes to the Pullman Transit.

“The loss of this bus service is going to put more people in a bind getting home safely,” said Gabriel Dowell, a WSU graduate student studying transportation engineering. “Once the bus service is cut, it’s pretty hard to get it back.” 

Dowell uses the Pullman Transit on a regular basis, he said. That routine ride after long nights is no more, he said.

“If you’re on one side of campus, I hope you have a couple bucks because it’s going to be a long walk,” Dowell said. “I’m dissatisfied with WSU.”

Councilman Nathan Weller is a WSU alumnus. Weller said during his days as a Coug, he used the transit system quite often.

“I hope some time in the future, there can be some money for this because I think it would be very popular if the word got out more,” he said.

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said there is the potential for student safety to become an issue without the provision of traditional evening services that extend into the morning hours.

“Providing free transportation where there is a bar late at night definitely is a positive thing for public safety,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said it is a waiting game now to see how the transit service and route changes will truly impact students.

The Pullman Transit plans to apply for a $1.5 million state grant to go toward operating costs for the next biennium budget. These approved changes will save about $60,000 for the next school year, said Chris Mitchell, operations supervisor.

Mitchell said this is not necessarily the end of late-night transit services. It comes down to funding and figuring out an appropriate solution.

“We have to decide where the best is for the most number of people,” Mitchell said.