Get on the bus

Oct 9th, 2008 | By | Category: Campus News, October 9, 2008

Bruce happy with her new ride

Mary Jane Bruce has gotten on the bus.

After 15 years of driving to City Campus, the broadcast services specialist with University Communications opted for a StarTran bus permit over a campus-parking permit.

Mary Jane Bruce
FREE-WHEELIN’ – Broadcast specialist Mary Jane Bruce says she has time to read and relax while letting Transportation Services and StarTran drive her to work. City and campus bus transportation has seen an up-tick with a new trend to environmental awareness and gas-cost-consciousness. Photo by Tom Slocum/University Communications.

And – this is where Dan Carpenter, director of parking services, may want to stop reading – Bruce has never been happier.

“Riding on the bus makes me feel so good,” said Bruce. “It’s very relaxing. I don’t have to worry about traffic or battling for a parking space. All I do is sit back and read.”

StarTran, the name for the city of Lincoln’s bus service, averages about 30,000 trips weekly for UNL faculty, staff and students. The Holdrege route, which offers rides between City and East campus, accounts for the most UNL riders, averaging more than 12,000 per week.

Parking and Transit Services offers bus permits at no cost (by request) to faculty and staff parking permit holders. The permits are also available for sale through Parking and Transit Services – $120 per year, $90 for nine months, $45 per semester, or $10 per month.

Total bus permits requested by parking permit holders has fluctuated since the bus program began with 1,599 issued in fiscal year 2004, said Carpenter. Fiscal year 2005 held the record with 2,078, however the current fiscal year passed that mark with 2,156 bus permits issued to parking permit holders.

The number of bus permits purchased through Parking and Transit Services has remained steady since 159 were issued in the 2005-06 academic year. The current academic year marks a record of permits issued at 163, with 152 purchased in 2006-07 and 156 in 2007-08.

“We really haven’t seen an increase in the number of bus permits purchased,” said Carpenter. “But, we have seen an increase in the number of bus permits requested with parking permit purchases. Last year we ordered 2,000 bus permits total. Between requests and purchases, we ended up running out and having to order more.”

UNL riders account for 26 percent of StarTran’s annual ridership.

“The contract between StarTran and UNL is a win-win situation,” said Scott Tharnish, a StarTran accountant. “We carry a lot of students and we are seeing an increase in the number of employees who ride the bus. Overall, StarTran ridership, to date, is up 5 percent over a year ago.

“We don’t track an exact reason, but we see these types of trends as the price of gas increases.”

The price of gas did play a role in Bruce’s decision to get on the bus.

“I would like to say I’m doing this for the environment, but it’s all because of the money I can save – both in gas and the price of a parking permit,” said Bruce. “We’re also in a position where I can do this now as our youngest child can now drive himself to school each day.”

When she was commuting to campus, Bruce said she had to fill the vehicle with gas about once a week. Now, she’s only fueling up about once every three weeks.

“It’s about $50 per fill-up now,” said Bruce. “And, on top of that, I’m saving on wear and tear on my vehicle.”

Others, like Norm Tallman, a custodian with Athletics, ride the bus because StarTran fills a need.

“Without the bus, I couldn’t get to campus because I don’t drive,” said Tallman, a 12-year StarTran veteran. “Riding the bus is great. It picks me up a couple of blocks from my house and delivers me right to campus. And, the cost of the permit is taken directly out of my check. For me, it’s very convenient.”

Bruce – who started to ride in June – said deciphering the StarTran bus routes and times is also pretty easy.

“You just have to get one of their maps and decide what route comes close to where you live,” said Bruce. “Most of the routes come directly to the university or state office building. I personally have two or three options on what bus I take. And, when we get to campus, the bus stop is actually closer to my work than where I used to park.”

Still, while the buses run at regular intervals, Bruce said riders must have patience as the commute does take longer than driving a car.

“I don’t mind it because it’s allowing me to read like crazy,” Bruce said. “I’m getting through three or four books a month since I started riding the bus.

“I would recommend giving the bus routes a try to anyone. StarTran is really a great option.”

Information on StarTran routes and services is available at, then click on “Bus Transportation.” Parking and Transit Services also offers bus route information online at

— Story by  Troy Fedderson, University Communications

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