Community partnership saved shuttle buses


Savannah Wesley

Shuttle Services was almost cut from WTAMU this year due to budget cuts mandated by the state but was taken over by Panhandle Community Services and is here to stay.

With the budget taking a state-mandated hit from the effects of COVID-19, Shuttle Services was going to be cut from West Texas A&M University, forcing commuter students who park at the First United Bank Center to walk to campus or find another place to park.

“This service is such a convenience to everyone on campus, even to visitors when we are able to host large events here again. I hated to see it go,” said Jerry Faltinek, director of support service for the University Police Department in a press release sent out by the university.

However, Faltinek reached out to non-profit organization Panhandle Community Services which has a history of helping WTAMU when the shuttles needed repairs and drivers. This community-based organization that services low-income communities completely took over the shuttles, providing the current drivers with jobs and saving the university $240,000 annually according to Faltinek.

“Our programs and services are designed and implemented to target specific poverty-related issues with the goal of bridging the gap between poverty and self-sufficiency,” according to the PCS about page. “As a whole, PCS provides a broad base of support for the residents of all twenty-six Panhandle counties.”

PCS receives their funding based on the amount of passengers serviced from the state and federal government and will be purchasing the shuttle buses from the university at a reduced cost. Masks will be required to be worn by passengers and the shuttles will run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“I have the means, and I really do want to be a good partner with WT,” said Lylene Springer, PCS transportation director. “This is just really good for the students.”

Faltinek participated in episode 26 of “Reflections from WT”, a podcast co-hosted by Dr. Walter Wendler, university president of WTAMU and Randy Ray, director of broadcast engineering and associate lecturer of media communication. In this podcast, he spoke about the service being taken over by PCS and what that meant for the university.

“That was, my job was the shuttle bus program and parking. And so, to get told that that was going to go away, I have a good relationship with all the bus drivers. I felt like I had a commitment to them,” Faltinek told Wendler and Ray in the podcast.

According to Faltinek, Shuttle Services transports anywhere between 100,000 and 120,000 people a year, even with the numbers being less than previous years. If the service had not been taken care of, those passengers would have had to compete to get parking on campus or close to campus, especially since surrounding businesses do not allow for non-customer parking in their lots.

“And so, I was like, that’s just going to compound my problems on the other end, of the parking side, of people are all forced to park on campus,” Faltinek said. “And then when you think about some of the major events that we have during regular class hours, and you’re competing, bringing 200, 300 people in for an event, say at Legacy Hall, then they’re competing for spaces that students pay for.”