Tight Budget? Ways to Save on Gas and Transportation

April 29, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Felicia Logan

The economic downturn has hit just about everybody in the pocket, and college students already have plenty of things to be concerned with as far as their studies go. As gas prices continue to balloon, students are looking for ways to save money. Riding the DART, walking, carpooling, bicycling and using websites that provide information about where to find the cheapest gas are a few options that may help students pinch their pennies.

DART is the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system, which operates buses, light rail commuter rails and on-call shuttle services, throughout Dallas and 12 of the city’s suburbs. An annual pass costs between $650 and $1,200, depending on what type of pass is required for commutes. However, SMU gives students a helpful and hefty discount.

“The contract between SMU and DART states that if you are an enrolled student, you are entitled to purchase a DART pass for a one time fee of $5,” says SMU’s Park ‘N Pony office supervisor Rita Zech. Although she could not provide specific numbers, “The number of students riding DART this year is definitely up,” she says. Shana Ray, a sophomore majoring in communications, says riding the DART is cheaper and more convenient than having her parents chauffer her. Living off campus makes it necessary for her to commute.

Many students live on campus, though. Sean Casa, a senior majoring in advertising and English, has a car, but prefers to walk. “I live on campus, and generally, I avoid driving unless I have to, just to save a little green.” Casa enjoys the walk from campus to Snyder Plaza and back. Eve Hay also lives on campus and has a car, but the junior advertising and psychology major shares rides with her friends. When she and her
friends want to go somewhere, they “pile up together” and carpool, says Hay. She says it’s an easy way to save on gas. Of course, riding a bicycle everywhere is also an efficient gas saver. SMU junior Emmanuel Van Hulst rides just about everywhere. It’s not only cost efficient, but a fun leisure activity, as well.

The average price of gas in Dallas is $3.83 per gallon today. Utilizing Websites like www.gasbuddy.com, www.dallasgasprices.com, and www.fuelmeup.com can help students find the cheapest gas available in their immediate area, follow trends, changes in price, and compare prices to the national average. Searches can be refined by mileage, zip code, and gas grades, too.

With the current economic downturn, its pays to find ways to save. Look for alternatives, instead of breaking the bank. As it’s often said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Most students already know that every penny counts.

The Daily Update: Thursday, February 3

February 3, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

While school might be closed the SMU Daily Update is up and running. See what campus looks like after three days of ice and snow and how students have been reacting to the weather. Jefferson Johnson takes a look at what this weather is doing to people who still need to get to work and how DART is handeling the situation. Also, make sure to stick around to see what the rest of the week’s forecast is going to look like.

Daily Update: Thursday, February 3 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

The Daily Update: Wednesday, April 28

April 28, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Read more

SMU’s Endowment Takes a Toll on Park N’ Pony

April 14, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By David Crawford

It’s no secret that over the past couple of years “The Great Recession” has hurt companies and organizations all across the country, including major universities. In SMU’s case, the university is facing budgetary pressure because the value of its endowment plunged by 21.9 percent between July 2008 and June 2009.

The reduction in the operating budget of the university has severely restricted the productions of every department that provides a service to students on campus. Over the academic year, Park N’ Pony, the division responsible for coordinating parking during university events and distributing parking permits to students and faculty, has seen a four percent decrease in its discretionary spending budget. This is on top of a two percent cut last year, as well as a number of cancelled events and irregular demands from students who aren’t spending as much on parking as they have in years past.

Mark Rhodes, director of parking and identification services at Park N’ Pony, says that even though Park N’ Pony does not have as much to spend as it once did, the department, for the time being, is still able to maintain the same level of customer service to students, faculty and staff as it has in the past.

“We’ve been fortunate to continue to function without having to have severe layoffs, but we can’t deliver our services if we keep cutting back into our budget,” Rhodes said. “We’re down to only spending on what’s absolutely necessary to operate, such as routine maintenance and new supplies. Whereas in the past we would travel to conferences and spend money on meetings quite frequently, we can’t afford those luxuries anymore.”

Park N’ Pony is an auxiliary service at SMU, meaning all of the expenses the department pays for, such as rent and maintenance to equipment, are self-financing. In other words, the department pays for its own expenses out of the revenues it collects for permits and fines.

Pam Thornberry, parking coordinator at Park N’ Pony, says many students are spreading out the payments for their parking permits or have found other ways of getting to school instead of spending the additional money on a permit.

“We’ve seen an increase in students who have divided the cost of their permit passes by paying each semester for a fall and spring pass instead of for a full year permit,” Thornberry said. “Dividing up the cost still equals the same amount if they were to pay for a full-year permit, but it helps the student to defer a payment if they can’t afford the price of the parking pass at one time. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of requests and issues of DART passes for the students who don’t want to pay the extra for a parking permit.”

According to Thornberry, DART provides Park N’ Pony with 5,000 passes a year and they have already given out 4,300 of those passes to students this year. On average, the number of DART passes given out is usually around 2,200 to 2,500 a year. A DART pass offers a year of unlimited rides on Dallas Area Rapid Transit buses and trains, and SMU offers those passes to students for just 5 dollars.

Rhodes says Park N’ Pony’s financial situation is a microcosm of the university’s. He says that the sooner the university begins to recover from the recession, the sooner Park N’ Pony will be able to operate normally with a budget that isn’t being cut back each semester, as it has been since the fall of 2008.

“The downturn in the economy is still in play and we continue to feel the domino effect of how the recession has affected the university,” Rhodes said. “The things that have affected this department the most are more reactive to what has occurred. Event planners are still looking for ways to have their event but contain their costs, and when not as much is being done on campus, fresh income for the university isn’t coming in as often. It’s just something we’re trying to find a way to work around right now.”

The Daily Update: Friday, March 19

March 19, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Read more

Big D Blog: On the Rail to Deep Ellum

October 19, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Orlando Rojas

With standing room only on the train from mockingbird station, I began my route to deep ellum. After the state fair is over I’m sure space will open up on the train.

I started off on the red line and got off at pearl station just two stops away. From there I hopped on the first green line train that arrived.

Next stop, Deep Ellum.

The station in Deep Ellum is on Swiss and Good-Latimer. I was greeted by the Traveling Man statue standing at 38 feet tall.

Just a few steps away on Good-Latimer and Gaston is the Traveling Man sitting and playing his guitar as he waits for the train. He is leaning on a piece of the old Deep Ellum tunnel that used to be in that location.

The next intersection Good-Latimer and Elm is where the journey of the Traveling Man begins. Here you can see the head rising from the ground. The actual story of his birth is an interesting tale.

As a Dallas native I am embarassed to say that the last time I came to Deep Ellum, the tunnel was still in service. Looking at where it used to be is a nostalgic feeling.

The best part of it all is that you see the positive changes that the new DART Green Line has brought to Dallas.

Just a quick transfer back at Pearl Station and this time I got the Blue Line to Mockingbird Station. Either the red or blue line can take you to mockingbird.

In one instant to another, I went from the heart of Deep Ellum to the SMU campus. What a ride.

Campus News Blog: SMU Students May Benefit From DART Transit Pass

September 21, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Nate Regan

As DART is unveiling the first stretch of its new Green Line, it may be worthwhile to ponder an opportunity which is open to all SMU students but few take advantage of – the DART Transit Pass.

With the added extensions to the rail system come fare increases across the board. A single ride has gone up a quarter while a day pass will cost an extra dollar.

But with a current SMU ID, students can purchase a one-time annual pass valid on all DART buses and rails, including the Trinity Railway Express. How much? Five bucks, quite a deal considering how much just a few rides would cost.

For those who never plan to use public transportation, it may just be an Abe Lincoln down the drain. But as the rail system continues to expand – especially to locales such as Deep Ellum and Fair Park – a $5 transit pass could prove to be a gift that keeps on giving.