search articles: 

   from the issue of September 22, 2005

StarTran program continues to build as gas prices shift


Recent gasoline price fluctuations are apparently bringing more riders to the UNL/ StarTran bus system.

Offering bus passes - free with the purchase of a UNL parking permit, or for a reduced cost without - the UNL/StarTran Ridership program has had 1,025 faculty and staff requests so far for the 2005-2006 academic year. That total is more than the 1,008 issued last year, and is approaching the number of 1,050 distributed in all of 2003-2004.

"I know we've had quite a few requests for the bus permits after gas prices started to rise," said Dan Carpenter, manager of transit planning services. "And StarTran is reporting increases in usage of the permits. But, we don't know the real reason because we can't just ask riders if they are taking the bus because they can't afford gas."

The ridership program began in 1994 when UNL agreed to pay for expenses on the bus route between City and East campuses in exchange for free passes for all students and parking permit-purchasing faculty and staff. Carpenter said annual cost of the program is about $300,000.

In the last fiscal year (September 2004 to August 2005), StarTran recorded 188,000 riders using university bus passes on the route between UNL's two campuses, and 235,000 student, faculty or staff using other routes across Lincoln.

"We don't have any way of breaking the number down between students, faculty and staff," said Scott Tharnish, StarTran accountant. "But we assume that 235,000 includes a number of faculty and staff. We really have seen a good response from people at the university using this program."

Joel Nielsen, graphic designer at the University of Nebraska State Museum, has been taking the bus since his second year at UNL.

"I started at UNL in 1998 and purchased a parking permit that first year," Nielsen said. "But, I decided to buy the bus pass after that because it is more economical."

Nielsen said there is a core of four or five UNL regulars during his normal bus commute. Aside from a few inconveniences - such as planning ahead for midday doctors' office visits - Nielsen said taking the bus is worth it.

"When I did drive, the commute was always a hassle," Nielsen said. "You are always pretty tired by the end of the day, then you have to go out and deal with rush hour traffic or bad weather.

"I find it's nice to have someone else worry about those things and do the driving for me."

Faculty and staff who do not purchase a parking permit can buy a bus pass at an average cost of $10 per month. Carpenter said the year-round pass is $120, nine-month is $90 and semester is $45.

Since August, Carpenter has tracked 275 requests for bus passes by employees who did not purchase parking permits. That is up from 256 a year ago and 193 in 2003-2004.

Carpenter said his office has issued 750 bus passes to faculty and staff who purchased parking permits this year.

Parking and Transit Services also issued over 20,000 passes to students, who pay for them through student fees.

"It is extremely important that we offer a program like this," Carpenter said. "No matter what fuel prices are, it is nice to offer an alternative to faculty, staff and students at UNL."

For more information on the ridership program or to obtain a bus pass, call 472-1800 or go online to



Master plan ready for faculty, staff review
Fiesta on the Green
Online carpool service starts at UNL
StarTran program continues to build as gas prices shift
Whitman Archive earns $500,000 challenge grant
Admissions dean outlines enrollment figures
Fossil named for UNL paleontologist
Museum collection open to the public Sept. 24
Rural Nebraskans look to family, friends for help with personal problems
Study to help gauge injury development among musicians