CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When the light rail extends from uptown Charlotte to UNC Charlotte's campus in March, students will be able to ride the train as many times as they want. In exchange for unlimited rides, university officials agreed to assess a mandatory $25 fee to all students each semester - whether they ride the light rail or not.
"Why someone should have to buy something to use a system they may or may not use just seems unfair, particularly for a college student," Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett said. "It's just a mandated fee that has nothing to do with education. It gives a million and a half dollars to CATS. I can see the upside for them but I don't see how it's fair. I think they should at least have the option to buy the pass."
"Like many other services offered at UNC Charlotte, including the transportation fee for Niner Transit; our enhanced bus system; the student union; athletics; and the Student Health Center; fees are spread across the student community," University officials say.
In a statement to WBTV, a spokesperson for UNC Charlotte wrote, "Light rail is a service and will assist the entire campus community by reducing traffic and congestion including the need to build more parking facilities."
The University says, "Students and Student Government Association leadership have been aware and supportive of the initiative throughout the planning and implementation of the project since the beginning. There is a great deal of student excitement about the opening of the Blue Line on March 16 and they are anxiously awaiting."
The way Commissioner Puckett says he sees it. "At some point, you have to decide that education fees should be limited to education, not to municipal services."
Some UNCC students say they recently found out about the fee.
Brooke Edwards, a sophomore, says she didn't know.
"I saw it in the email when they announced when the light rail would be opening. It doesn't really bother me that much. I'd still want to use it. I guess I don't mind that much," but she said she would have liked to have been asked.
"I had no idea. I'm willing to pay it though. I love it Charlotte. I'm gonna use so I don't mind paying a fee" Zack Swanson said. "I would have liked to fill out some paperwork, see it on paper but definitely willing to pay a fee for direct access to the city. It's so much more convenient than driving, paying for parking, stuff like that."