A partnership with the city of Grand Forks and UND could bring a more consistent bus schedule for UND students, along with a reduced expense for the school, city and university, leaders said.
Plans are in the works for the city to take over the university's three bus routes next fall, including trading out three outdated buses for new ones.
The city receives federal funding for its bus services, but UND would have to pay a cost share of the yearly cost as a part of the new bus share program.
As a part of its 2019 fiscal year budget, UND will pay about $384,600 for the cost of drivers, rental of buses from the state fleet and other expenses. By 2021, those costs are expected to go down to about $236,400 as part of the university's partnership with the city.
Additionally the university would pay a one-time $304,000 fee to the city for the new buses, and UND would need to set aside money for a portion of the bus replacement going forward.
The new buses would be on the road for 12 to 14 years. UND has buses that have been on the road for about 30 years, said Dale Bergman, director for Grand Forks' Cities Area Transit.
Ridership on UND's bus system has decreased over the past few years, UND facilities head Mike Pieper said Wednesday during a joint meeting between the UND Student Senate and the Grand Forks City Council. That may be, in part, due to the inconsistency of the school's bus services, Pieper said.
The school contracts with the state's fleet, which can cause the cost of the services to be slightly "erratic," he said.
"We end up modifying the routes in order to balance the budget, and then that creates inconsistencies, and, therefore, our ridership has suffered a little bit over the years," he said.
The partnership would bring down the cost of the bus services for the university and also would allow for a more regular schedule for student riders, Pieper said.
Discussions about the city and the university working together on a bus route have been going on for about five years, Bergman said.
The city is in line for three new buses for the university routes, in addition to several other new buses for the city in general, Bergman said.
Bergman noted a similar partnership between Fargo and North Dakota State University has been ongoing for many years.
The final details still are in the works, but as long as everything goes according to plan, Grand Forks staff hope to be running those buses for the university by Aug. 15, 2019, Bergman said.