Shuttle Prices: A failure of the administration

Washington and Lee’s administration has chosen profit and business over students

Blake Ramsey, Staff Writer

 Being a senior, I have been well-accustomed to the school rightfully treating Reading Days, a literal two-day break from class, as a school-sponsored break. Therefore, when in June, I found a Southwest deal that would take me from Dulles to Chicago for $130 roundtrip, I capitalized upon the opportunity.

I assumed that, just like in years past, I would be able to get a school shuttle to the Dulles airport for $15, making my total transportation fee for what amounted to be a mini-vacation to be merely $160. 

Now imagine my surprise when I looked to schedule my shuttle in September only to see that the price for a shuttle to the DC airport was now $365 because the school didn’t consider Reading Days a scheduled trip – making the round-trip expense just to the airport around 5.5 times more expensive than it would be for me to hop on a plane from Washington DC to Chicago.  It simply was a ridiculous notion.

There are multiple things wrong with this policy change, including most notably the illogicity of the price, the school no longer considering Reading Days as an official break, and the lack of communication behind it.  

Let us begin with the price point since this is the real reason that I’m writing this article.  Even on official school breaks, the price points have increased across the board – with shuttles to Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond and DC being $25, $35, $55 and $70 respectively for one-way shuttles between the airports.  

Not only do these prices differ drastically from the uniform $15 shuttle the school provided in previous years, but the disparate cost of shuttles to the Richmond and DC airports have a greater effect on students looking to take cheaper airlines, since Spirit and Breeze only fly out of DC and/or Richmond. Plus, on the shuttle pricing website, there is no written policy for accommodating lower-income students, even though the Director of Public Safety has stated that “for students who demonstrate the need, the shuttles would be free.” 

While this is of course a positive development, the lack of transparency on what is considered “need” leaves students in a precarious situation. Therefore, this change in policy even during breaks still has the capability of detrimentally affecting the finances of people with fewer monetary resources, as now the increased shuttle funds might make flying on a cheaper airline equally as expensive as flying out of Roanoke or Charlottesville on a bigger airline.

But, of course, our school is a profiteering institution – they couldn’t stand to lose money to provide an essential service to students.

Now that I’ve tackled the prices for actual breaks, let’s get into prices for when the school isn’t actually at break. For the Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond and DC shuttles the prices are $120, $166, $292 and $365 respectively. 

This has a few implications – one, it effectively traps people on campus who don’t have a car during Reading Days, as I doubt many at this school are willing to pay such a hefty fee one-way just to get to the airport. Two, any extraneous reason you would have to fly out, such as a family wedding, is now costing an exorbitant amount of money just to get there and back.

To relay how outrageous these prices are, getting a theoretical Uber to the Dulles airport would have been $265.94 not including tip, roughly $100 cheaper than the price for the official school shuttle to the Dulles airport.  

This policy forced me to book a train to DC from Charlottesville, pay my friend to take me to Charlottesville, get a hotel room overnight and then on the way back ride a train from DC to Charlottesville and ride back with a group of students who had a car. Even with all of these additional expenses and hassle needed to get to the airport and back – it still cost me roughly $500 less than what the shuttle would, showcasing how comical the usage of the airport shuttle has become. It has literally been killed by the administration’s greed.

This whole experience also has me questioning the administration’s shift on viewing Reading Days as an official break. Any logical explanation one devises cannot explain their perspective on this matter. 

My first thought is that they considered Reading Days to be too short to be a proper break, but this is broken by the administration’s stance on the Law School’s Fall Break, which also spanned a Thursday and Friday just like Reading Days. This left me confused on why Reading Days was no longer considered an official break – was it that because of the name “Reading” inside of it they implied it was days off to just do more work? 

If this is the case, then our administration also needs criticism with the mental health management of the student body. 

It genuinely is impossible for me to answer the question on why Reading Days is not considered an official break definitively, but if I was to opine, I reckon that the administration does not see the need for an official break because they hold the “academic integrity” of the university above the mental health and wellbeing of students.  

Additionally, I want to highlight the lack of communication from our administration.  Many students felt blindsided by this sudden change, including myself.  A change in policy should be thoroughly broadcast to students, if not at the end of the previous year, then at the beginning of the current year.  

Despite having such a large administration at our university, no administrator seems capable of communicating with the student body about the things that affect them personally. 

Similar to political policies, there are unforeseen consequences of this policy change, namely geographical discrimination and classism. 

People from the West Coast or further away from campus are much less likely to have their car here if they do in fact own one. And these are the people who are most likely to need to use the shuttle service, not only for official breaks but also for anything they might have to do not falling on a break.  

It is a complete failure of our administration which claims to be inclusive and to be rectifying the classist, racist, white, southern and misogynistic image our school carries from our legacy of discrimination.