University progresses on path to discounted transit passes
The commute from Fairfax to campus costs linguistics major Alexander Williams $6 each way, and compounded over dozens of trips every semester, the expense has become a strain for which he would welcome assistance.
SF State students and administration have discussed implementing a transit pass over the years, but despite neighboring institutions like University of San Francisco having free Muni access included in their tuition, SF State has never implemented such a program.
“I pay $12 a day,” Williams said. “Any (discount) is nice. It saves money.”
Student representatives have paralleled the meetings with student outreach, including a town hall meeting April 13 hosted by Associated Students, Inc. in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. The event provided attendees with updated information on transit passes and helped students voice their concerns. Participants also completed a short transportation survey initiated by ASI last week that will continue online.
A 2014 SF State transportation survey shows Williams falls into the 19.1 percent of students who pay $10-14 round-trip on their daily commute, while a third of students pay $1-4. Nearly half of SF State commuters ride Muni and 26 percent take BART for some portion of their trip to campus, according to the survey.
House representative Jackie Speier took note of students’ concern with cost of living during her fall campus visit and convened a meeting in February to address transportation, according to her press secretary Katrina Rill. Speier facilitated a meeting for President Leslie E. Wong, student representatives, BART Director Nick Josefowitz, Supervisor Scott Wiener and Mayor Ed Lee to finalize a strategy.
An online petition created by president of the College Democrats at SF State Marcus Ismael to support a comprehensive ‘Gator Pass’ has garnered more than 650 signatures since the start of April, with a goal of 1,000 signatures before May. The petition outlined cost of transportation in the Bay Area that other local universities have subsidized.
Student Sustainability Coordinator and delegate Miguel Guerrero said he predicts students will be able to vote on whether or not they want to pay for transit passes as a campus fee by the end of they year if BART approves a discount policy.
“There’s lot of back-end work that needs to be implemented—things don’t happen as fast as you’d like,” Guerrero said. “It’s all contingent on what agreement we work out with BART.”
Josefowitz said he hopes for a potential BART discount of 25 percent or more while Guerrero said it could be in the 30-40 percent range. If they reach a consensus for a pilot program, Guerrero said he and his colleagues hope to pave the way for other universities in the Bay Area to implement the first BART discount for college students.
Some SF State students who must drive or walk to campus said the transit pass would only cost them more in tuition without added benefit. For graduate student Jacquie Mitchner, working in Palo Alto means public transportation is too slow to be on schedule.
“I need my car all day for work and I live on the opposite side of the city,” Mitchner said. “I don’t have time.”
For those who typically drive, 44.1 percent of survey respondents chose a reduced fare transit pass for Muni as their first choice for an incentive to use alternative modes. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said they would support a student fee to provide a transit pass that offers unlimited Muni rides and a discount on BART if it resulted in savings.
Josefowitz said he will meet with University administration and student representatives, who are continuing outreach and public discussions this week. Without student outreach and approval, the pending deal would be invalidated, further postponing a transit pass, he said.
“This is really coming from the students,” Guerrero said. “It’s the only way.”