‘Gator Pass’ would discount Muni for SF State students

With Muni Fast Passes on the rise again this month, San Francisco State University students are trying to reduce their transportation costs by proposing a discounted “Gator Pass.”

A discounted pass on Muni has been proposed before at the university, but has come up short with little to no progress, said Marcus Ismael, student president of the College Democrats at SF State.

The proposal, which includes students paying a discounted fee each semester to ride Muni, has gained momentum as city and transit officials sat down with student representatives to discuss such a program to provide a discount for monthly Muni Fast Passes — and possibly a discount on BART fares — for the nearly 30,000 students who attend the university, said Ismael.

Ismael started an online petition earlier this year, which garnered 747 signatures. He said three factors motivated his campaign, including a higher cost of living for students, cooperation from city officials. and students surveyed last year who supported a student fee each semester for a discounted transit pass:

“Students are living farther and farther away from campus to save in housing costs, but what they save in rent and additional costs associated with living close to campus or in San Francisco is lost in time on a train or a bus and for transit fares themselves which have steadily risen.”

A 2014 transportation survey conducted by the university concluded that transit usage increased with 47 percent of university students and staff taking Muni and 26 percent using BART. The survey said this was a 22 percent and 19 percent increase since the last survey in 2008.

The survey also concluded that respondents who drove to campus would think twice about driving if a discounted transit were available to them.

Students representatives have met with city and transit officials to discuss the proposal, which have included Congresswoman Jackie Spier’s office, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s office and Nick Josefowitz, who sits on BART’s Board of Directors.

Josefowitz told SFBay how important it was for students to get to school quickly, sustainably and affordably:

“So many want to take public transportation, and the last thing we want is for students to be dropping out of school because they can’t afford to get there.”

BART does not have a program to offer university students a discounted pass, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency does. The SFMTA has a Class Pass program, offered to University of San Francisco students, where students pay $130 each semester to get a sticker on their USF One Card to ride Muni.

Correction 7/29

Josefowitz said BART’s program could be modeled after the SFMTA’s. He said that he is working with student representatives and university administrators on how much of a discount students would get and how the program would be implemented:

“It’s the first time BART has done this type of program so there are a lot of logistical and procedural issues to work out. But we’re making terrific progress.”

Miguel Guerrero, a student coordinator for the university’s office of sustainability, said student representatives are looking at a 20 to 40 percent discount range on BART. He said he would also like students to use their student ID cards or a specialized Clipper Card as a way to implement the program for both Muni and BART.

Guerrero said that implementing a Clipper Card program could be costly. The San Francisco Examiner reported in April that reprogramming the Clipper Card could cost $1.5 million.

The Clipper Card is overseen by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, who would get involved if BART and the university seek to implement a specialized discounted transit pass for students using Clipper.

Guerrero said grant funds could help pay for the cost.

Before transit agencies take a vote on whether to give SF State students a discounted pass, students themselves have to vote on the transportation fee first, said Guerrero. He said he hopes to to bring the proposal to the students by the spring of 2016 and implemented by 2018 as stated in the university’s 2015 strategic plan:

“A majority vote by students is what it takes for the referendum to pass.”

The Associated Students, Inc., the university’s student body government, has already shown support for the discounted transit pass by voting on a resolution last spring.

While economic and equability are the primary reasons for getting a discounted transit pass for students, there is also a sustainability angle, said Ismael:

“Less students in private automobiles means less traffic, smaller emissions, and transit that actually moves on time.”