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A look at the permit system coming to the Sugar Land shuttle

A passenger boarding the UH at Sugar Land Shuttle bus at the Cullen College of Engineering Technology Division, on Nov. 27. | Robert De La Garza/ The Cougar

For students, a new semester can be quite expensive with student fees, tuition and books — all coming due around the holidays. This spring, students who need access to the Sugar Land Shuttle can now add a bus permit fee to the long list of funds owed. 

UH Parking and Transportation, the Student Government Association and the Transportation and Parking Advisory Committee have agreed to adopt a new bus permit fee of $239 for people who don’t meet priority requirements to get on the Shuttle free. Although students were informed about the possible changes in September, some are still unsure about the fairness, affordability and details of the permit.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said computer information systems senior Bradley Ledford. “It should be open to anyone, we’re all students at UH and we all pay fees, so I don’t see why it would be restricted.” 

Who is it for?

Students who are registered for classes at both UH main campus and UH at Sugar Land will have priority registration for the permits and are not required to pay a fee, according to an email sent Monday evening by assistant director of Parking and Transportation Services Richard Zagrzecki.

Students who live on the main campus and have in-person classes at Sugar Land will also have priority. Additionally, students who have a valid UH zoned or garage parking permit for the spring semester will not be required to pay an additional shuttle bus permit fee, the email said. 

However, students with a valid UH at Sugar Land parking permit will still have to pay $79, which is the difference in cost between a zone permit and the Sugar Land parking permit, according to the email.

Purpose of fee?

The required permit was announced last week, more than two months after the University decided to restrict access to the shuttle in September. 

These efforts are to address concerns the University had with some students using the bus as a park-and-ride service to get from Sugar Land to UH, said journalism senior and vice chair of TPAC Zahra Gokal.

“The shuttle was originally for people who have classes at both locations and no one else,” Gokal said.

Gokal lives in the Sugar Land area, rides the shuttle and is also directly impacted by this decision, which she helped develop as chair of TPAC. 

She said this was the best compromise, as opposed to the alternative, which would have completely restricted access for those who don’t have classes at both campuses. 

The $239 from each student will allow the shuttle bus to be financially sustainable in the long term so students can continue to utilize this service, and it will increase the shuttle fee revenue to cover a fraction of the costs necessary for operations, Gokal said.  

Students’ reaction

Ledford has been using the Shuttle for over a year. He lives in the Sugar Land area and as a CIS major, all his classes are located at UHSL. However, he previously worked at the main campus and utilized the Shuttle instead of driving. 

Ledford is unsure if he will meet the requirements and doesn’t believe the prices are affordable for students balancing a tight budget.

$240 is a lot, considering we’re already paying tuition, books and all these other expenses. This is just another thing that you’re adding on to us,” Ledford said.

Not all student’s feathers were ruffled by this decision. Others had contrasting opinions about the permits, saying that they were well informed on the matter and somewhat fair if you consider fuel.

“I think it’s fair, ” said freshman business major Amanda Chen “You have to think about the gas cost if you drive yourself every day, most people around here live at least 30-40 minutes away. That’s why it is a little on the high side.”

The fees will go directly to Parking and Transportation, according to leadership, but it is still unclear how these funds will be allocated, and if it will better serve the students using the shuttles. 

Some students say they could get behind the fees if it meant improving the current situation and if sudden changes could be rectified with more clear messaging. 

“I would love if they were more transparent with the decisions they’re making,” Ledford said. “We’re just being told to pay this fee and if you don’t have the money or don’t register in time, you don’t get the permit, so then you can’t use the bus.”  

Chen said students had the opportunity to participate in forums created in the community’s GroupMe, however, some students didn’t take the initiative to have their voices heard.

“They put in a lot of surveys, so if you really wanted to have your opinion heard then you could have filled the form, but I understand. I heard a lot of people didn’t really do that, so if you’re upset it’s really your decision,” Chen said.

Priority registration

Priority registration is now open and students eligible for the shuttle bus permit must register by Dec. 1 at 5 p.m., Gokal said. 

If you are not on the priority list, then on Dec. 4, the permits will be made available to any UH student at noon, according to the email. 

Availability is limited so students are encouraged to register quickly and stay informed because a spot on the shuttle is not guaranteed. 

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