As a political science major at Stanislaus State, Josephine Hazelton has an eye for improving the community around her. Now as the first recipient of the Mayor’s Public Policy Award in the amount of $3,000, she can do just that—starting with improving access to municipal bus services in the community.
Her project proposal entitled “Catching the Bus: Public Transportation in Turlock” aims to increase affordability and convenience of public transportation for Stanislaus State students, enhance existing bus stops with posted bus schedules and routes, and modify routes—if needed—to areas of interest in Turlock.
“I’m very honored and I hope to do great things with this project,” said Hazelton. “I think it has a lot of potential.”
Included in her proposal, Hazelton said that one of her primary goals is to improve the affordability of public transportation for her fellow students since she noted that Stanislaus State is one of the only campuses in the California State University system that does not offer reduced or free bus passes for students.
“I want to find a way to fund student bus passes so that we can encourage university students to use the bus,” said Hazelton. “I think university students are more willing to use the bus and are dependent on the bus and public transportation. Student bus passes help make it more affordable and encourage ridership.”
In addition to providing a more affordable way to take public transportation for her peers, Hazelton said that she hopes to identify a route that better caters to where university students would want to go by sending out a survey and analyzing results.
“I know that a lot of people drive to campus during the day and leave to go downtown for lunch. This way they will never have to drive in their car,” said Hazelton. “This will bring opportunities for economic development downtown, increase options for mobility and present environmental benefits.
“This impacts the community in so many ways,” continued Hazelton.
Hazelton said that she hopes to increase the convenience of public transportation for the entire City of Turlock with bus stop enhancements, such as time tables and bus route information, noting that “when public transportation is convenient, more people will use it.” She also aims to analyze areas of interests for bus routes in Turlock and understand the feasibility of changing existing routes.
“My underlying goal is to increase ridership of public transportation in Turlock because it has so many benefits,” said Hazelton.
Hazelton said that she decided to submit a proposal for the public policy awards for the same reason she became a political science major: to make a difference in her community.
“I was looking for solutions to public policy issues that impact the place that I’ve grown up in,” said Hazelton. “I love Turlock and I am very passionate about the topic I proposed.”
During Mayor Gary Soiseth’s time as an adjunct professor in Stanislaus State's political science department, he often conferred with students about local issues that faced them: failing infrastructure, diminishing aquifers, unemployment and underemployment.
It was during this time that he realized the need for a public policy award and as a result he would later pledge to donate his mayoral salary to create this award and further these discussions. Soiseth approached the university in Spring 2015 to explore options for redirecting his mayoral stipend in order to benefit University students and the City of Turlock, thus establishing the Mayor’s Award.
"Josephine is a perfect recipient for the first Mayor's Award at CSU Stanislaus," remarked Soiseth. "When I created this award with my mayoral salary, I was hoping to receive proposals that would tackle tough public policy issues, that would be progressive in vision, and that would benefit our community in a very real way.
“Josephine's proposal to analyze the efficiency of Turlock's mass transit system far exceeds this expectation. I'm looking forward to hearing her findings and then putting Josephine's recommendations into action to better our community,” continued Soiseth.
The $3,000 award will help Hazelton’s research during the spring semester. She will be working on the project with faculty mentor Gerard Wellman, and Soiseth has offered Hazelton an internship with the City of Turlock Department of Engineering to give her access to research resources.