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Borough, university to partner on transit pilot program

Submitted by Marmian Grimes
Phone: 907-474-7902

07/17/08

The University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough are planning a new partnership that could boost the number of people who use public transportation and reduce automobile emissions.

The plan, which is slated to come before the Borough Assembly for review this month, would institute a Large Employer Subsidized Transit pilot program on the borough bus system. Under the program, UAF's PolarExpress student and employee identification cards would serve as passes on all borough buses.

The program stands to benefit both the campus and Fairbanks community, according to UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers. "We hope this partnership will help improve our air quality, as well as reduce the number of cars on campus and free up parking spaces. It could also offer students and employees a real savings on their transportation costs."

Borough transportation director Glenn Miller said similar programs are popular in Anchorage and in other cities throughout the United States.

"Right now, with the cost of energy ... it is a heck of a lot cheaper to take public transportation than it is to drive your own automobile," Miller said, noting that programs like the one proposed help familiarize people with using public transportation. "Once they do it, they realize how easy it is, how convenient it is and how cheap it is."

According to Miller, a little over 16 percent of the bus system's total riders are traveling to or from UAF, accounting for about $70,000 in fares each year. Four of the borough's six bus lines stop at the campus. Under the proposed program, UAF would pay about $20,000 toward the program during the first year and the borough, via federal grant money, would cover the remainder. The university would gradually pay more for the program, if it proves successful. In exchange, anyone with a valid PolarExpress card would ride borough buses for free.

If the assembly approves the plan, it would begin this fall.

CONTACT: UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers at 907-474-7112 or via e-mail at fnbdr@uaf.edu. Glenn Miller, FNSB transportation director, at 907-459-1007 or via e-mail at gmiller@co.fairbanks.ak.us. Marmian Grimes, UAF public information officer, at 907-474-7902 or via e-mail at marmian.grimes@uaf.edu.

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