Undergraduate Student Government, in partnership with USC Transportation, has recently implemented a temporary program that will provide free shuttles for students to Los Angeles International Airport before spring break.
The shuttle will run three times a day on Thursday, March 12 and Friday, March 13 from the University Park campus to LAX. According to Michelle Garcia, associate director of transit, the shuttles will operate at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. on both days.
The idea for this program was conceived within USG, but required collaboration with USC Transportation to formulate the actual plan. USG Director of University Affairs Jordan Fowler said that the planning to implement an LAX shuttle began last semester.
“We brought up the idea to [USC] Transportation towards the middle of last semester and they were pretty receptive,” Fowler said. “We thought this idea was pretty lofty, we weren’t sure how it would be received and we weren’t sure what kind of model they would be open to. In the end, they were so responsive and so welcoming to this idea and we were just thrilled.”
Garcia explained that USG and USC Transportation got creative when it came to using the available resources.
“Other people within USG have brought this idea up in the past. One of the challenges for us is that we just haven’t been financially able to support it,” Garcia said. “I explained to Jordan that we can offer certain shuttles at certain times that will fit into our schedule. That way ended up working for everyone.”
Fowler credited USC Transportation with being extremely cooperative and taking the initiative to make the service completely free to students.
“The shuttle is fully funded by the Department of Transportation. It is a completely free service to students,” Fowler said. “One of our survey questions was, ‘What is the maximum amount you would pay for a shuttle?’ and all of a sudden the department was willing to do it for free. My assistant director’s and my jaws dropped, we were so excited. That’s a testament to their department, they don’t get enough credit; they totally get it and they are fantastic people.”
Students are equally thrilled to see the implementation of a program that is applicable. For many students, free transportation to LAX has been a long-awaited service.
“It will be really nice to not have to spend $20 or $30 with Uber or something to get to the airport,” said Mackenzie Erdman, an undecided freshman. “Students will get a lot of use out of this.”
When Fowler and her team began working to make the shuttle to LAX a possibility, they created a survey to test how important the project was to students like Erdman.
Overwhelming support helped initiate a conversation with USC Transportation.
“We decided that a survey would be most effective because we needed the support and feedback of a lot of the USC community,” Fowler said. “My team was really instrumental in making that survey a success: we actually got 409 responses. That was part of the reason that the Department of Transportation was so open to the idea.”
If the shuttle service runs smoothly during spring break, USG hopes to extend the service during more breaks.
“If it is successful then I hope we can work with transportation to expand the program,” Fowler said. “The resources are there; we just have to deal with the sign-ups.”
According to Garcia, however, the increased implementation of free shuttles to LAX in the future depends upon planning.
“Ideally, we would love to offer more days and shuttles for other breaks,” Garcia said. “But at this time, it’s a little fuzzy if we are going to be able to do that.”