LACCD should lobby MTA to subsidize students

Illustration by Maria Salvador, May 21, 2014
Illustration by Maria Salvador, May 21, 2014

With the growing cost of community colleges reaching the level of some universities, many students are hurting financially. If community colleges are to maintain a level of affordability and a viable option of education for people, we must find a way to bring down some of the cost and one of the best ways to do that is to make public transportation free to all LACCD students.

The Big Blue Bus, which services the area of Santa Monica and parts of West Los Angeles, offers fare-free rides for current Santa Monica College students. Although SMC is not a part of the LACCD, their tuition fee per unit is the same as the colleges within the LACCD. Being able to offer such a deal to students is invaluable and would greatly help in bringing down some of the costs of college.

The LACCD should work with the Metropolitan Transit Authority to offer fare-free rides to its students the same way the Big Blue Bus offers fare-free rides to SMC students.

Not only would it benefit the students within the LACCD, but it would benefit the MTA as well, maybe not immediately, but moreso in the future. Years from now, students that have used fare-free rides would remember and would continue to support the MTA by using public transportation more often. People that are not qualified to use such a service would recognize the proactive community service student fare-free rides provide and use more public transportation as well.

The caveat to this is that the Santa Monica and West Los Angeles area, as well as SMC, is a much smaller area and campus respectively where as LACCD is comprised of many campuses and encompasses a much larger area, but ridership within the area the Big Blue Bus operates is very high because people support the Big Blue Bus’ community outreach this service provides.

There is a discounted fare that the MTA does provide to students but there are challenges to get it. For a person to qualify for the MTA’s discounted fare, a college student must be enrolled in at least 12 units, fill out an application with some evidence showing the enrollment, and then either mail that form to the MTA or turn in the form at their customer service center located in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles. Once that is all completed, a student has to play the waiting game until the MTA mails the reduced fare tap card.

This approval process is not only difficult, but time consuming for a student that needs the discounted TAP card immediately in order to get to classes. This is not mentioning the fact that not every college student is attending full time, leaving out part time students who are ineligible for the discounted rate.

It will be a difficult endeavor for the LACCD to work out a deal with the MTA to provide this service for its students. The MTA is a private business whereas the Big Blue Bus is city operated. In the likelihood that a fare-free ride system be unfeasible for the MTA to offer to LACCD students, the MTA can revise the requirements to become eligible for the discounted rate to include every student, not just full time students.

It isn’t free, but the $36 a month for the discounted rate is better than nothing. If the LACCD and MTA are smart, they will recognize how valuable it is to offer this service to all students.