February 21, 2007

S.A. Charters Bus to Airport

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Out-of-state Cornellians can finally start saving money. Last week, the Student Assembly announced that it would charter buses for Cornell students traveling to and from Syracuse Hancock International Airport over spring break for discounted rates.

The buses, which students can sign up for at the Straight, will run to the airport five times a day on Friday, March 16 and back to campus on Sunday, March 25 for a fare of $15 one way and $25 round trip.

Typically, the least expensive option for those students flying out of Syracuse is Ithaca Airline Limousine, which offers scheduled service to the airport for $55 one way or $95 round trip according to a Cornell transportation website.

The service is the brainchild of S.A. representative Vince Hartman ’08. Hartman said he heard many of his friends complaining about the cost of transportation to the airport, and wanted to see if the S.A. could do something about it.

The cost of travel to the airport has always been an issue for the S.A. because of the high prices, but this year, said S.A. President Kwame Thomison ’07, the group decided to take action.

“It’s just ridiculous to tack that much money on to an airplane ticket,” Thomison said.

Hartman said the S.A. would ideally have liked to offer rides on the first Thursday, Friday and Saturday of spring break, but did not want to take too much of a risk because there was no previous data indicating how many students would be interested in riding the buses. He estimated that the buses will be able to transport about 360 students one way.

“We’re starting small, but want to grow bigger,” Hartman said.

The S.A. is renting the buses from Cornell Transportation, which eliminates the need for students to sign any liability forms. However, Thomison said that if the program does not generate enough interest for the S.A. to cover the costs of renting the buses, students will be notified at least two weeks in advance, and all money will be refunded. This will also give students enough time to make other arrangements.

“We would have hundreds or thousands of dollars in losses if not enough students sign up, and we just can’t afford that,” Thomison said.

The Ithaca Airline Limousine Service is the only company that offers regularly scheduled service to Syracuse Airport from Cornell and Ithaca, according to Neil Wintermute, President of Ithaca Airline Limousine Service and Northeast Livery Inc.

“That’s a very good deal, extremely good,” said Wintermute of the S.A.’s program.

The Ithaca Airline Limousine Service offers door-to-door service year round to and from the Syracuse Airport, and many of its customers are Cornell students. According to Wintermute, during a typical break, the company services approximately 200 to 300 students. The company runs eight trips a day with advanced reservation required, and runs buses even if only one or two people are on board.

Wintermute says that one of the major expenses of running this kind of service is the insurance required by the Interstate Commerce Commission for bus companies, which costs about $5 million per accident.

“Anybody can put something together at a cheaper price with a lot of people. But if they’re going to come in here and take the gravy, it is jeopardizing the people who use our service everyday of the year because we can’t maintain the service we provide with only one or two people riding the bus at that price year-round,” Wintermute said.

Thomison said that the S.A. took into consideration the effect the Spring Break program might have on the service of the Ithaca Airline Limousine.

“We’re only running on the Monday and the Sunday,” Thomison said. “We’re not as flexible as they are. We’re not going to really compete. They still have a monopoly on the service to Syracuse Airport.”

Many students are excited about the money they will save on the discounted buses.

“We’re college students. Not all of us can afford to pay $90 to just get to the airport,” said Evan Lee ’10, who is from Texas.

Hartman hopes that the program will be able to grow from here.

“I want the program to do really well,” Hartman said. “Hopefully, I want to expand it to New York City and Boston because many students are from the big cities. I think the program will really help students who live out west.”