SYNERGY, THE newly elected Students’ Union of Yonsei has been enthusiastically working on various projects right after the election. It is struggling to solve students’ problems, such as the high housing fee at Woo Jeong-Won, protecting the employment rights and conditions of maintenance workers, and so on. One major project they are focused upon is the “bus issue.” Synergy has publicly made a promise that it would solve four issues regarding the buses: increasing the number of shuttle buses that connect Songdo and Sinchon, restoring the shuttle buses that run from Sinchon Station and Gyeongbokgung Station to school, and establishing a shuttle bus system that picks-up students from their homes and takes them to school.
Securing the “Inter Campus Shuttle”
Transporting students from Yonsei International Campus (YIC) in Songdo to Sinchon has been one of the major campus issues since the establishment of YIC. Guaranteeing the “YIC to Sinchon” bus seems inevitable, since otherwise freshmen in Songdo are unfairly isolated from the rest of the Yonsei students in Sinchon. The Yonsei Administration has announced that YIC is not a separate, but an affiliated campus of Yonsei, but it did not provide adequate means of transportation. As a result, freshmen had trouble visiting Sinchon campus because the number of shuttle buses did not meet the demand and M-buses caused discomfort due to their lack of seats. Rha Hee-yeon (Soph., Dept. of Sociology) complained about the sacrifices she had to make as a freshman last year. “There was a clear division between the YIC and Sinchon campus. We, freshmen, were minorities in our club not because of our inexperience but because we lived too far from the rest of the members. I could not entirely belong to my club or my school. Perhaps the reason why the new term ‘freshmen in Sinchon’ was made is because freshmen are unfamiliar with the Sinchon campus, unlike students in other universities.” Currently, there are only six shuttle buses all together that come and go between the Songdo and Sinchon campuses. There is one bus per 30 minutes or one hour, but students say that this is not enough. “Reservation for shuttle buses is almost like registering for courses,” said Rha. Also, M-buses require too long of a wait and too much time on the road. Yet, the worse thing is that the contract with Cheong-lyong Transportation to take Yonsei students for free expires in August 2015. After the expiration, students will have to pay individually for the inconvenient M-bus.
Synergy has acknowledged the students’ needs, as it insisted that the number of shuttle buses be increased and M-bus services be maintained even after August 2015. During the elections, Synergy promised that it would increase the number of shuttle buses that run between Songdo and Sinchon, since shuttle buses are the fastest way to get to Sinchon from Songdo and vice versa. Synergy also made a pledge to resign the contract with the private transportation company to continue the benefit of free rides on the M-bus, which runs along the route that connects Sinchon and Songdo. Due to the tremendous amount of required expenses, the Yonsei Administration takes the stance that they cannot afford it. Yet, Synergy has a plan to post advertisements in the buses to make use of the income as a shuttle bus fund. On top of renewing the contract, Synergy also promised that it would increase the number of M-buses by negotiating with Cheong-lyong Transportation.
Necessity for shuttle buses from stations to school
Not only is it YIC students but also Sinchon campus students who feel the necessity of more shuttle buses. The problem lies with the location of Yonsei University. It is too far from Sinchon Station, but there are no shuttle buses that take students to school. Despite the students’ demands, the Sinchon Station shuttle bus route was abolished because of the Baekyang-rorenovation project blocking the Main Gate. Currently, shuttle buses run only on campus and the starting point is the South Gate. The South Gate is farther from Sinchon Station than the Main Gate, and it is obvious that this shuttle buse route is not as useful for students’ commuting.
Students experience this inconvenience every day. Kim Hyun-woo (Soph., Dept. of Econ.) said, “It takes 30 minutes from Sinchon Station to classrooms by foot. The worse thing is that there is no public transportation except for taxis, which are too expensive.” In fact, it is 723 meters from Sinchon Station to the Main Gate of Yonsei; whereas it is 346 meters from Ewha Womans Univ. Station to Ewha Womans University, and 301 meters from Korea Univ. Station to Korea University. Another problem is that the area of Yonsei University amounts to about 850,000 square meters, yet there is no shuttle bus within the campus. After students get to the Main Gate, there is still a long way left to the classrooms. Most students like Kim Hyun-woo, whose major courses are held at places like the Daewoo Hall, one of the farthest lecture halls on campus, suffer from a long commuting time. Except for a few students such as ones at the College of Engin., whose classrooms are near the Main Gate, most students complain about the fatigue and inefficiency that come from going to school. In addition, transportation from Gyeongbokgung Station to Yonsei is causing problems.
To fulfill Yonsei students’ expectations, Synergy has pledged to reestablish the route that connects Sinchon Station to school. It also seeks to shorten the allocation time of Sinchon Station shuttle buses. Moreover, Synergy has made an additional pledge that it would satisfy the need for more shuttle buses that connect school and Gyeongbokgung Station, because there are relatively fewer buses compared to the number of passengers. Currently, 75 students get in one bus during the most crowded times, when most students go to school. In addition to the inconvenience, students’ safety is not guaranteed as well. Even though students’ safety is being threatened, the Yonsei Administration is not supportive. Kim Se-jin (Chief, Dept. of Student Welfare Yonsei General Student Council, Synergy) said, “The matters of shuttle buses are executed by Yonsei and Synergy cannot take active measures to enforce our plan, but can only negotiate with them. We are trying our best to increase the number of shuttles to a desirable point.”
Establishing the Tong-pyeon-jip bus system
The Tong-pyeon-jip bus system is one of the most ambitious projects of Synergy. According to Kim Se-jin, Tong-pyeon-jip is an abbreviation of “comfortably commuting to school from home” in Korean. It is a school shuttle bus system that seeks to help students who live in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do. The greatest advantage of these buses is that the seats are designated. The routes of these buses were selected by a demand survey in advance, but districts that have poor transportation such as Anyang-si are included. Although it is not determined how much students will be charged, it would be \3,500 or less per ride, which is the precedential school bus fee of Korea University. Unfortunately, the time period of the school bus is fixed; the buses would take students to school only before first or second period.
Many students welcomed Synergy’s pledge regarding Tong-pyeon-jip buses because they could not apply for dormitories, as their residences were located in Gyeonggi-do and Seoul, which is still often a long way to school. Lee Sung-won (Soph., Dept. of Education) was happy about this idea. “I live in Suwon-si and spend a lot of time commuting – about an hour and half. I definitely think that Synergy’s school bus system is a good idea if it shortens my commuting time. Although it is little bit expensive, I can afford it if it decreases wasted time.” As many students like Lee are looking forward to the school bus plan, Synergy has managed to establish the buses starting from March 2015. Kim Se-jin also informed the Annals that preparation for the Tong-pyeon-jip bus system, from deciding the routes to signing contracts with transportation companies, is almost complete.
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Reasons for Synergy’s pledges seem well thought through judging from their intentions. All the monetary and administrative issues to execute their plans exceed the capacities of a Students’ Union to handle, however. Therefore, to increase the efficiency of implementation, the Yonsei Administration should share the burden of Synergy’s projects, making the plans public. For that, a consensus of both students and faculty should be established in order to demand that the Yonsei Administration offer enough support for these bus systems. Every year, the Students’ Union makes unrealistic promises and often fails to fulfill them. This should not be the case this year. Since Synergy’s plans are necessary and justifiable, Synergy should stick to their promise by all means; the intransigent stance of the Administration should not be an excuse.