An urge for cheaper transportation

Pierce student, Alec Bick, 20, uses her student monthly tap card at the Winnetka Orange Line station in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Students are required to have a class schedule of 12 units to get a reduced student card. President of ASO Barbara Lombrano, is pushing to lower the requirements to 6 units. Photo by Mohammad Djauhari

Pierce student, Alec Bick, 20, uses her student monthly tap card at the Winnetka Orange Line station in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Students are required to have a class schedule of 12 units to get a reduced student card. President of ASO Barbara Lombrano, is pushing to lower the requirements to 6 units. Photo by Mohammad Djauhari

Pierce student, Alec Bick, 20, uses her student monthly tap card at the Winnetka Orange Line station in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Students are required to have a class schedule of 12 units to get a reduced student card. President of ASO Barbara Lombrano, is pushing to lower the requirements to 6 units. Photo by Mohammad Djauhari

Traffic, fluctuating gas prices and the parking space issue on campus are enough to discourage students from driving, however efforts from the ASO might solve the problem with a discount on metro bus passes.

Pierce College is working to implement the Universal College Student Transit Pass (U-Pass) Pilot Program by the spring semester. According to Metro, the program would offer students unlimited rides on Metro bus lines for a reduced fee each semester.

The program has already been implemented in other colleges, universities and trade schools in the region. The main goal is to help reduce the bus fees for students and encourage more students to utilize the Metro as a method of transportation.

According to ASO president Barbara Lombrano, the regular pass available to students can take up to six weeks to obtain. CSUN, Santa Monica College and other campuses in the district have already signed on to this program, according to Lombrano.

“They’re estimating right now that if there’s no subsidy from the college or ASO, it would run about $190 for the semester,” Lombrano said. “I am trying to find out what the campus would do to subsidize the cost and then ASO may [also] decide to help subsidize the cost.”

The Director of Metro Commute Services Communications, Devon Deming, met with Pierce College to discuss the Universal Pass Pilot Program. Methods of pricing and requirements for eligibility of the pass were discussed.

There is a price cap and Pierce would only be billed for what is used the first year, even if it falls under the cap, according to Lombrano. However, if Pierce goes over the cap, they will not be charged for that excess amount.

Deming was unavailable for comments.

As of now, students are eligible for the U-Pass if they have eight or more units per semester. This also includes units from classes attended at other colleges. Pierce College is working to make the requirement six units for its part-time students.

“I know that the Metro board is going to be meeting Dec. 1 and they are going to talk about possibly getting it down to the six units,” Lombrano said.

According to Lombrano, each campus is responsible for setting their own criteria of student requirements for the pass. These would include the enrollment state, GPA, and mandatory fees.

There are options for schools to pass or subsidize the cost of transportation such as having all students pay the mandatory transportation fees.

“What Rio Hondo College has been doing for several years is they charge a flat fee to all the students, like $9 a semester. Their full-time students get that Metro pass at no cost to them and students that are part-time pay a little,” Lombrano said. “For us to do that, we would have to make an amendment to our constitution and the entire student campus would have to vote on that.”

Pierce College student Ruby Saucedo takes the Metro to get to school, but also uses it to commute to other daily activities.

“I usually pay for a day pass, which is $7, but when I used to be a full-time student, I would buy the college bus pass, which is like $46. That covered the month, which is only for 30 days,” Saucedo said.

Saucedo generally takes the bus because she doesn’t have another option and she thinks it’s cheaper than taking a taxi or Uber.

“A good price would be like $120. That would be good for a semester because that’s like paying thirty per month, which is like a dollar per day,” Saucedo said.  

Pierce College wants to have the program set up as early as next spring if possible, according to Lombrano. The delay is figuring out the cost and how Pierce could help subsidize it for students now and in long run.

“I’m just really hoping that we can get this going for our students because I think it would be a huge benefit for them, which is what ASO should be doing, advocating on behalf of our students,” Lombrano said.

**UPDATE with Devon Deming quote on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016**

The Director of Metro Commute Services Communications, Devon Deming, met with Pierce College to discuss the Universal Pass Pilot Program. Methods of pricing and requirements for eligibility of the pass were discussed.

Deming is currently preparing the U-Pass Board Report for the Metro Board of Directors meeting on Thursday Dec. 1. Pierce and Deming are still working together on the specifics of how the program will work for students.

According to Lombrano, there is a price cap and Pierce would only be billed for what is used the first year, even if it falls under the cap. However, if Pierce goes over the cap, they will not be charged for that excess amount.

“Generally, students who purchase a U-Pass receive a smart-chip enabled sticker for their student ID that turns it into a TAP card, valid for all Metro buses and trains in LA County for the entire semester,” Deming said. “Pierce is planning on launching a small test program for 100 students for Winter Session in January 2017 and officially launching campus-wide for the 19-week Spring Semester.”

According to Deming the pass will be for 19 weeks and will cost $190.57 without any subsidizing from the school. The amount the school may subsidize has not been confirmed at this time.

“The smart-chips can also hold stored value to pay for cash fares on other agencies’ services,” Deming said.

Monica Villacorta

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