SAC Seeks Possible MUNI Student Discount Rate
SAC seeks possible MUNI student discount rate
March 17, 2005 7:25 PM
The SF State Student Affairs Committee is looking for ways to alleviate high transportation costs for SF State students who commute using public transportation.
On March 15, the committee discussed the possibility of a special fare-free transit pass program that would allow SF State students to ride San Francisco’s Muni system for discounted rates.
The program, dubbed “class pass,” would give students unlimited semester-long access to Muni buses and light rail trains without paying a fare each time, and without buying expensive monthly passes from Muni. The university would purchase bulk transit directly from Muni at a negotiable rate and give passes to students and perhaps staff and faculty.
Many other Bay Area universities such as the University of San Francisco (USF), San Jose State University and University of California Berkeley already enjoy fare-free transit pass programs for students and faculty.
SF State students who use Muni to commute to school on a daily basis must pay full price for transit fares, which may be increasing in the near future due to Muni’s budget deficit.
“The SAC is trying to start a little momentum on this issue,” said Klingenberg. “It has been out there for a while but not a thing has been done yet.”
SF State child and adolescent development major John Green, 18, uses Muni to commute to school and work. Green said a class pass would alleviate the hassle of scrounging for round-trip fares and the unaffordability of monthly passes.
“Paying a $1.25 every time I get on Muni is hard, and a monthly pass is way too much,” Green said. “It’s like another cell phone bill.”
Jennifer Olsen is a policy associate for Transportation for a Livable City, a non-profit organization that encourages the use of class pass programs to better our city environment.
“Transportation is a pretty big burden,” said Olsen. “The class pass really affords students mobility and encourages the use of public transportation.”
According to TLC, a fare-free transit system reduces demand for parking, reduces traffic congestion and air pollution, increases students’ options for jobs and housing and ultimately cuts university spending on parking accommodations.
“The benefits so thoroughly outweigh the costs of these programs,” said Olsen. “This is money that would eventually need to have been spent on parking garages.”
San Jose State University’s commute coordinator Andy Chow said San Jose State’s “Eco Pass” system “greatly alleviated” a lot of the parking shortages that San Jose State faced before the program’s initiation.
“It’s a very popular program on campus,” said Chow. “It encourages people to try public transportation instead of driving.”
A survey conducted at UC Berkeley to evaluate the effectiveness of Berkeley’s class pass system showed a 250 percent increase in transit ridership in the first year of the program’s implementation.
“I think students really take advantage of the pass,” said Richardson. “It allows better access to the city and the community.”
USF communications major Sharee Nuez, 20, takes advantage of her student transit pass and calls it “very beneficial and convenient.”
“Transit would be a pain without (the pass),” said Nuez. “I mean, who actually carries around the change to always pay fares?”
Universities vary in the methods they choose to pay for the bulk transit passes; most Bay Area schools opt for mandatory student fees paid at the beginning of each semester. UC Berkeley and San Jose State students pay $37.20 and $21.50, respectively, as part of registration costs. USF students pay $60-75, depending on the semester.
Other funding options include using parking revenues and fines, general funds or even grant money.
Many commuters at SF State do not live within city limits and would have no use for an unlimited Muni pass and would not want to pay extra fees for a service they would barely use.
Business administration major Michelle Fasig, 21, lives outside of San Francisco and said she rarely uses public transportation.
“(A class pass) really wouldn’t benefit me at all, so I shouldn’t have to pay for it,” said Fasig. “The fees are already so high, a transit fee would make it ridiculous.”
Green said he would not mind paying an additional student fee to make student transit passes possible.
“If I was to pay an additional fee, I would expect it to be reasonable,” Green said. “Something like $30 dollars would make it a lot cheaper and easier to get (transportation costs) out of the way at the beginning of the semester.”
SF State business communications major Lisa Ekroth, 24, commutes to campus from the Haight District. Ekroth said that although the pass would help with her commuting costs, paying for the pass should not be mandatory.
“It’s a good idea, and it would help me out, but it’s not for everyone,” said Ekroth. “It shouldn’t be mandatory for people who aren’t going to use it.”
Olsen stresses that the benefits of the transit pass system would be beneficial for all members of the SF State community, not just students who commute on Muni.
“When more people use transit, less people drive, which reduces traffic and parking problems,” said Olsen. “Everyone will benefit, whether they take public transportation or not.”
“Every dollar spent on a class pass can be thought of as being used twice,” Olsen adds, “first as transportation and second as student aid.”
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