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SF State students grumble over ‘Gator Pass’ transit fees

Starting in the fall of 2017, all San Francisco State University students will pay $180 each semester to support the university’s “Gator Pass” program that allows students to have unlimited rides on Muni and a 25 percent discount on BART to and from the Daly City Station.

The goal of the program is to offer a break on public transit costs while encouraging students to take public transit to campus instead of driving. Two weeks ago, BART’s Board of Directors made it official by approving the agreement with the university.

RELATED BART board approves SF State discount program.

Not all students are on board with the program though, especially those who may not take public transportation, or who spend less than five days a week on campus.

Brook Thomas, 30, a graduate student studying computer science, said paying for the Gator Pass would not be worth it for him. He voted “no” on the transit referendum in April during an Associated Students election.

Of 30,000 total students at the university, 2,142 students voted in favor of the Gator Pass, while 812 students voted “no.”

Thomas said he does take BART to SF State, but only travels to the campus twice a week. He lives in the East Bay and said a roundtrip to and from campus costs him about $8. He would get a $2 discount on his round-trip ride to campus and would save around $16 a month — while paying $45 a month for the Gator Pass.

He said students who walk and bike would get no benefits from the pass and that students who live in San Francisco would benefit the most:

“The only people this pass benefited were the students living in San Francisco who saw their monthly MUNI pass go down from $70 to $45, while everyone not living in the city is paying to subsidize them.”

John Forell, 26, a graduate student in the Department of Special Education & Communicative Disorders, said it was unfair for him to pay the student fee since he rides his bike to campus:

“Tuition is expensive enough, and now I have to pay hundreds more to fund other students’ BART discounts.”

Thomas started a reddit thread before the Associated Students election to encourage students to vote “vote” no on the measure. Another reddit user made a thread after BART had approved the program, which included a number of comments in opposition of the transit pass.

Despite objections from some students, a 2014 transportation survey with 3,077 responses from students and faculty showed 89 percent showed support in paying a student fee for a universal transit pass offering unlimited Muni rides and a discount on BART. Of those respondents, 49 percent lived in San Francisco and 28 percent lived in the East Bay.

Naeemah Charles, one of the students who led the fight to get the Gator Pass for students, told the BART board that this was best option for students after working with transit and city officials during the last two years. Charles was the vice president of external affairs of the Associated Students.

The student organization said on its website said that though not everyone will use the Gator Pass, it’s to the university’s benefit to make it available for the entire student body.

Students pay currently a number of student fees each semester even if they do not use any of services. Those fees include a Health Service Fee to provide services to students at the Student Health Center, and a Student Body Center fee to help maintain and operate the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

The Associated Students said having access to public transportation would be good for the environment and students with a limited income:

“The Gator Pass will reduce the campuses carbon footprint, relieve parking congestion and promote equity for those students most in need.”

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