Cheaper gas, less riders

The new Sam Shuttle transit system was created to ease some economic burden from Sam Houston State University students, but it is now feeling the strain of the economy as it looks for a way to increase ridership.

The Sam Shuttle began operating Aug. 18, 2008 and already the number of riders is not sufficient to cover the costs of the service.

“We anticipated that it would take some time for this service to catch on with the students and staff,” Dr. Richard Eglsaer, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, said. “We did not anticipate the price of gas to fluctuate as much as it [has], nor did we expect the interruption from [Hurricane] Ike.”

When the service began, the national average gas prices per gallon were $3.69 for regular and $4.15 for diesel. Soon after Hurricane Ike, the gas prices plummeted because the oil refineries in the Gulf Coast area were not as severely damaged as anticipated.

To provide the shuttle service to students, agreements had to be made with other transportation systems in order to provide three stops for students in about an hour – in Conroe at the Outlets of Conroe parking lot, at the University Center main entrance lot for Lone Star College and at the Portofino Shopping Center on Interstate-45.

“We entered into a contract with The City of Conroe, The City of Shenandoah, Montgomery College and The Woodlands Township to have Brazos Transportation District provide us with the service,” Eglsaer said.

The Brazos Transportation District is concerned about the lack of riders, but still continues to provide the service.

“We have had to curtail some of the routes until the ridership increases,” Eglsaer said. “To this end, we consolidated a few routes in the afternoon.”

Those working with the Sam Shuttle service plan to increase ridership through an ad campaign. The university plans to do everything it can to keep Sam Shuttle up and running.

“In short, we remain committed to providing our students with this service,” said Eglsaer.

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