Campus Buses, Night Shuttles May Be Given Up to AC Transit

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The campus is currently in talks to cede control of the bus service that runs along the campus perimeter to AC Transit and potentially overhaul the night shuttle system by next year.

If negotiations go through, campus buses will switch from being UC Berkeley-run to being managed by AC Transit, meaning all 17 campus-employed bus drivers would lose their jobs. The night shuttle system could also be replaced by a new system, in which four UCPD vans would be on call to take students home.

Seamus Wilmot, interim director of parking and transportation for the campus, said the changes are being considered because AC Transit is not willing to renew its lease with the campus.

"Nothing has been formalized," Wilmot said. "We're looking to get out of the bus business. What precipitated this is we're losing our lease on the buses, and we can't renew the lease."

AC Transit currently leases perimeter and night shuttle buses to UC Berkeley on a month-to-month basis after their long-term lease expired in June, he said.

With the changes, the perimeter bus would run more frequently, and the H and C lines would be replaced by a bus route that goes directly from the BART station to Berkeley labs.

At present, $700,000 of student fees goes toward maintaining campus buses and night shuttles per year. These fees pay for bus drivers, maintaining the lease with AC Transit and funding insurance, Wilmot said.

Bus drivers said the talks between the campus and AC Transit do not adequately take their views into account.

"It's appalling that the UC and LBNL are considering laying off bus drivers who have given decades of service to the university ... with very little investigation," said Bob Mayer, a Bear Transit bus driver who has driven on campus for 16 years.

Mayer said campus drivers were told on Monday that they might be let go by August, and that he thinks the campus should look into options like leasing buses from other transit companies.

Wilmot said the campus considered purchasing six perimeter buses and two night shuttles to maintain the current system, but this option would have required the campus to pay $2.8 million for the buses and another $2 million in annual maintenance.

Nancy Skowbo, deputy general manager for service development at AC Transit, said the campus wants to continue services for students.

"They have a number of shuttles they want to maintain the service for and figure out a best way to do that," Skowbo said. "We submitted a proposal and they're working to further it along."

Ara Zarifian, who rides the bus daily, said he is worried about how proposed changes could affect services.

"It's kind of a shame," said Zarifian, a UC Berkeley sophomore. "It's a helpful service. I don't know how good of a job they'll do at replacing the service."


Contact Christine Chen at [email protected]

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