The recent cancelation of the Institutional Transit Access Pass (I-TAP) program, which exclusively gave qualified students across the district low-cost transit passes, has prompted student representatives to take it upon themselves to set up their own version of the program.
Leading the efforts to establish an agreement with Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) is Andrea Bari, vice president of finance for Los Angeles City College’s student government.
Bari has been trying to negotiate a deal with the transit company since the spring of this year, he said.
The problem, according to Bari, is money.
“We cannot afford to pay the amount that they’re asking,” he said.
According to Bari, another hindrance to any progress with the new deal is an educational code that limits the amount of money students can be charged for transportation to $70 a semester.
For their side of the agreement, LACMTA is asking students to pay $8.31 weekly. For a 16-week semester, each student would be paying $132.96.
“We cannot ask students for that kind of money,” Bari said. “The rest of the lump sum has to come from [somewhere else] like ASO (Associated Students Organization) or the college. No one has that money.”
LACMTA does offer a discount to Transit Access Pass (TAP) cards for college and vocational students, where approved applicants only have to pay $36 monthly. Regularly priced 30-day passes amount to $75.
Bari, however, is looking for a “different type of program,” one similar to the now-defunct I-TAP.
“[LACMTA has] been giving me the runarounds. They’ve given me a good rate at a certain point in time, but it wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I’m at a point where I think it’s going to require various ASO leaders to make a massive [appearance] at the next Metro board meeting.”
Bari admits that support for his efforts isn’t as high as he would like it to be.
“I understand why some other students [are hesitant about pursuing the agreement]. They tend to get discouraged because it seems like a goal that’s too hard to obtain,” he said. “But, if we are to represent students’ needs and rights, sometimes it means holding people accountable for their job. Otherwise, we’re not representatives; we’re just students.”
Through I-TAP, students who met requirements for eligibility were able to, each semester, either acquire loaded TAP cards for $20, or load cards they already had for $15.
To be able to utilize the program, students had to “be currently enrolled in at least an aggregate of 12 units or more for the applicable Fall or Spring semester at one or more of the Colleges [sic] and hold a valid student identification card,” according to the contract between LACCD and LACMTA.
The card applied to all LACMTA vehicles: all local Metro Bus, Metro Rapid, Metro Liner and Metro Rail service.
The program, which was co-sponsored by both LACCD and LACMTA, commenced Sept. 20, 2008 and was discontinued this semester due to present construction circumstances and lack of funding.
“MTA has had a nice three-year contract [with the district],” said Bobbi Kimble, dean of Educational Support Services for LACCD.
The program was initially set up because parking structures in schools across the district were undergoing either construction or renovation, according to Thomas Hall, director of Facilities, Planning and Development for LACCD.
“It was a mitigation for not enough parking,” Hall said.
Now that many of the parking lots are open and students are able to utilize them, the district decided to end the program.
Another reason for its discontinuation is the lack of funds to subsidize it.
Because the program was put in place for construction reasons, I-TAP was funded completely with bond money.
The district took out money for the continuation of the program from “whatever project was going on,” said Hall.
“Bond money won’t be there forever,” said Linda Tong, former student trustee for LACCD.
The program cost the district $1,199,293.55 each six-month term.
In May of this year, Gabriel Mellibosky, then-Pierce College ASO presidential elect for Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, told the Roundup that he planned on holding a referendum sometime this semester for students to vote on possible subsidization of the program by students.
However, nothing came out of this plan.
“As far as where Gabriel left off with that, if he was doing any legwork, I don’t know about that,” said Febe Ruiz, who took over as ASO president this month after Mellibosky resigned from his post due to personal reasons. “I definitely want to get more informed about I-TAP, because I know it’s a need… a lot of students are coming in and asking about it.”
Based on statistics gathered by the Roundup, Pierce has the fourth highest number of I-TAP users in the district, following Los Angeles City College, East Los Angeles College, and Los Angeles Trade Technical College.
For Spring 2010, 1,364 students either purchased TAP cards that were part of the I-TAP program or loaded TAP cards they already had, according to Pardaman Mann, Business Office supervisor. That’s approximately 6 percent of the total population, and 23 percent of the total number of students with 12 units or more.
For Fall 2010, on the other hand, there were 1,665 students who utilized I-TAP, bringing the percentages up to 7 percent compared to the total student population and 27 percent compared to the number of students with 12 units and above.
“I know this semester has been a lot more focused on the budget and Occupy L.A.,” Ruiz said. “This may have just been kind of pushed off because of those things.”