During Thanksgiving and winter breaks this year, Student Council will continued to run a discounted shuttle service from Grounds to the Dulles and Richmond airports. The AirBus program is in its second year of operation since being reinstated. An earlier version of the service was in operation several years ago.
Since its return, the AirBus service has run shuttles to both Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. and the Richmond International Airport to help students get home for breaks. Additionally, they lowered the prices of the shuttle from $20 to $15 to be more competitive with other bussing services between Charlottesville and D.C. or Richmond.
“The whole idea behind the program is that we provided low-cost transportation options to students, especially if they are out of state and need to go to an airport,” said Darynha Gnep, third year Curry student and Chair of the Student Life Committee on Student Council. “But what we also find is that students who live in those areas … they often utilize that service.”
The AirBus program was reinstated the year before Gnep became the Student Life Chair and ran shuttles for 2018-2019 winter and spring break. That year, between 10 and 12 students utilized the service for each of the breaks.
Riya Baphna, a third-year College student, used the AirBus service to get home for winter break last year.
“Considering that I don’t have a car and I live outside the country, it was really cost-efficient,” Baphna said. “Usually, I have to coordinate a ride with one of my friends who’s driving to NOVA, but that’s kind of inconvenient because they go home at different times, and I have to be at Dulles for my flight.”
She explained that the bus was much cheaper than getting a cab or an Uber to the airport, which can cost up to $200.
This year, trips to Dulles and Richmond are at or nearly at full capacity.
Gnep and the Student Life Committee planned the travel dates in advance and contacted the Vice President for Student Affairs to send out mass emails to the whole student body to publicize those dates.
For Thanksgiving break this year, all 55 seats to Dulles were filled, and only 7 spots remained on the bus to Richmond on Friday. For winter break, the December 18th shuttle to Dulles reached maximum capacity within a couple weeks of going on sale, and a second bus was added.
Funding for the AirBus program is procured from the Student Activity Fee money. Gnep said that the amount they request is based on “how much it would cost if no students signed up or utilized the service at all.” This year, the Student Council requested around $8,000, but they play to return $6,000 to the SAF pool since so many students are registered to use the shuttle service this year.