Starting this past Friday, all passengers wishing to use the Robertson Scholars bus now must pay a $2.50 charge or present a GoPass.
The Robertson program, which bused students between Durham and Chapel Hill free of charge, announced late November that it would transfer its bus service from Duke Parking and Transportation to the Durham Area Transit Authority. The change in management would add a bus fee, but the transition did not start taking effect until Jan. 7. For affiliates of University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the final grace period for a free busing ended Friday.
According to the website of the UNC Department of Public Safety, UNC students may receive a free GoPass only if they qualify for the Commuter Alternatives Program, an initiative designed to encourage environmentally friendly transportation for students who live off-campus and do not have on-campus parking permits. Conversely, all Duke students—undergraduate, graduate and professional—are eligible for a free GoPass through Parking and Transportation.
“I think it really affects Chapel Hill students more,” UNC freshman Anna Ballasiotes wrote in an email Sunday. “It seems kind of discriminatory.”
UNC students who require the bus for work or school are able to apply for a free Robertson Express Pass, but many students feel slighted nonetheless.
“It was nice to always have the option to pop over to Duke, but now it’s a little more difficult,” said UNC freshman Meredith Morrow.
For Durham Area Transit Authority and its parent company, Triangle Transit, the change has been successful thus far.
“It’s gone well,” said Laurie Barrett, Triangle Transit director of bus operations. “We’re very happy to be operating the route.”
Carlton Williams, assistant operations manager for DATA, noted that most riders of the bus so far have had a GoPass.
Duke Transportation has also found that the transition has been smooth.
“The DATA and Robertson people couldn’t have been any better to work with,” Joseph Honeycutt, interim assistant director of transportation services of Duke, wrote in an e-mail Friday.
He added that the two buses that Duke had formerly used on the Robertson route have since been integrated into other Duke Transportation bus routes.
Despite the administration’s praise of the change, UNC students are unhappy with the end of the free option.
“It weakens the tie between two great schools, removing from students even the option of pursuing goals that may otherwise lead to collaborative achievement,” said Anurag Angara, a freshman at UNC.