Gator Pass: Good for some, not for all

After over a year of either anticipation or anger about an upcoming increase in student fees, the SF State Gator Pass is now officially in effect.

The Gator Pass, which doubles as a student ID card and Clipper card, provides free, unlimited rides on Muni buses and light rails and a 25 percent discount off BART rides to and from Daly City for all SF State students.

The pass, however, isn’t free. It costs an additional $180 in mandatory student fees per-semester, with the price slated to increase by $5 annually — Fall 2018 to $185 and Fall 2019 to $190 — to accommodate for Muni and BART fare increases.

“I think (the fee) is the right amount; I usually pay $75 a month for Muni,” said Matthew Crisostomo, a fourth-year hospitality and tourism management major.

“As the prices are going up for Muni, it’s been really hard to pay for it, so $180 for one semester (is) a reasonable amount for the Gator Pass,” Crisostomo said.   

In comparison to a $75 regular adult monthly Muni pass, the Gator Pass translates to $45 a month in the first year, $46.25 and $47.50 a month in the following two years, respectively.  

A discounted transit pass was discussed for years, according to SF State’s Associated Students Inc. (ASI), and ultimately found support from various student groups, District 8 BART director, Nick Josefowitz and then San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener. Students voted in favor of the pass — 73 percent to 29 percent — in an April 2016 referendum.

According to ASI, the pass is meant to encourage public transit use, which it says is good for the environment and cost effective for students with limited income.

“The Gator Pass will reduce the campus’ carbon footprint, relieve parking congestion and promote equity for those students most in need,” ASI wrote on its website.    

But the pass doesn’t strike all students as a money-saver — especially for those who don’t use Muni or BART.

“I feel for the students who won’t use [the Gator Pass] because they have their car or they don’t use public transportation,” Kimberly Olmos, a second year international relations major, said. “Their (fees) went up too, but they’re not gaining anything from it.”

The Gator Pass is similar to the mandatory fees students have been paying, such as the $157 for the Student Health Service and $82 for the Student Body Center.  

Regardless of whether students will use the pass, they have to pay for it — it’s not a user fee, according to ASI.

“While not every student will use the Gator Pass transit features, it is to the university community’s collective benefit to avail all the members of the student body with the opportunity to do so,” ASI wrote on its website.    

According to SF State’s 2016 Transportation Survey, 45 percent of campus affiliates — students, faculty and staff — use Muni to get to school; 46.9 percent walks to campus; 36 percent drives alone and 26.7 percent use BART.

For Cloud Monteclaro, a fourth-year BECA and criminal justice major, the Gator Pass is a helpful option for students who do not have a car or cannot afford other forms of transportation. He believes it is inevitable for students to use Muni or BART at some point.

“At some point instead of driving, walking or biking, [students] will take Muni to go somewhere, whether it be to school or elsewhere within the city or Bay Area,” Montecarlo said. “This is really a service to everyone.”

The pass will be subject to regular reviews by a team of students and administrators to “evaluate the program’s efficacy and determine appropriate cost escalation, if any,” according to ASI.

“Should the program enter into a deficit in any given semester, the university may elect to discontinue the program; in any such instance, no fee will be collected,” ASI wrote on its website.    

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