Possible tuition increase would give bus passes to students
The Santa Clara
November 1, 2018
For an extra $13 per quarter in tuition or $39 for the whole academic year, SantaClara students could soon be able to ride Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) buses whenever they choose.
The $13 fee will cover the cost of each student’s pass, allowing them free access to VTA busses. In contrast, a monthly adult pass through VTA would cost $80, which would add up to $240 a quarter.
This opportunity is due to the SmartPass program which Associated Student Government (ASG) sophomore Senator Ciara Moezidis and junior Senator Helen Kassa are trying to implement at the university.
VTA busses run throughout the Santa Clara Valley and students can take the bus to various locations including Santana Row and downtown San Jose.
The most convenient VTA pickup and dropoff location for students would be the Transit Center across the street from campus, located next to the CalTrain station.
On Oct. 25, Moezidis gave a presentation to the University Budget Council (UBC) about the proposed SmartPass Program. The UBC will make the final decision on whether or not the program will be enacted on campus.
The decision is expected to be made before Feb. 2019, which is when the fiscal year 2020 budget is approved.
The initiative to launch the SmartPass Program began with an ASG resolution, which served as ASG’s formal declaration of support for the VTA SmartPass initiative.
The resolution, passed in April 2018, declared that ASG senators encouraged the implementation of the SmartPass program.
Parking and Transportation Services and the Center for Sustainability have also expressed their support of the initiative through advising ASG senators and providing ideas and online resources such as information guides with ways to market the program.
Following the passing of the resolution, the next step was for ASG senators to present the SmartPass implementation strategy to the UBC last Thursday.
If the UBC passes this program, a two- year pilot program will be implemented beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year. If this happens, Moezidis promises plenty of promotion and education to help students learn about the VTA program and how to use public transportation.
To gauge overall student interest in the program, Moezidis sent out a survey asking how many students at Santa Clara use VTA, and how many would be willing to pay the $13 per quarter for unlimited use.
Around 900 students responded to the survey and 50 percent indicated that they do not use VTA. However, 67 percent of responders said they would be willing to pay the mandatory quarterly fee.
“It will be a culture change,” Moezidis said. “It’s not that students do not want to use public transportation, it’s mostly just that students do not know how to and that can be overwhelming.”
Currently, there are plans to in- crease visibility and to implement education of the program through first-year orientation, residence life programs and online resources through Parking and Transportation services. The SmartPass program, as well as the tuition increase, would apply to all undergraduate students enrolled at Santa Clara.
While the idea of an opt-in program would be fairer to all students, Moezidis said that
VTA requires at least 3,000 students to be enrolled in the program to keep the cost of the program at 13 dollars. Given Santa Clara’s current undergraduate enrollment of 5,499 students, an opt-in program would likely not yield the required number.
Cara Uy, the Sustainability Coordinator at the Center for Sustainability, hopes that students will look past the additional cost of the SmartPass program and take advantage of its sustainability once it’s implemented.
“I can only hope that students are in unanimous agreement that reducing their carbon footprint is an urgent priority and that opening the way to encourage equal access to resources for the entire student body like the VTA SmartPass Program is important,” Uy said.
One of the biggest reasons students oppose this program is the tuition increase. While $39 can seem minimal in the overall cost of tuition, students would rather not see it raised any more than absolutely necessary.
Sophomore Emily Shao, a com- muter student, feels less inclined to use public transportation given the freedom her car a ords her.
“I don’t think I will use public transportation and the VTA SmartPass program,” Shao said. “It would be an inconvenience as well as could be potentially unsafe. I have my own car and have the freedom to transport quickly at the times that I choose. Public transportation typically requires more planning and is time inefficient in my opinion.”
Supporters of the initiative stress the environmentally- friendly concept of public trans- portation, which aligns with Santa Clara’s priorities of sustainability.
Moezidis stressed Santa Clara’s lack of transportation deals, which are staples at many other schools.
“A lot of first-years come to campus expecting deals like this but are disappointed to nd it is not an option,” Moezidis said. “With the lack of parking and an excessive amount of cars over- owing parking lots and neigh- borhoods, VTA would give people the opportunity to save money on transportation to go to simple stops, and also help our planet.”
Currently, Santa Clara is a Charter Signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment with the current goal to achieve carbon neutrality. The goal is to be carbon neutral from indirect greenhouse gas emissions from university- funded travel and commutes by 2029. The VTA SmartPass initiative is a potential step towards achieving that goal.
Given these benefits, there are students who support the SmartPass initiative. “Personally, the bus has been super helpful to get o campus to places without having to pay for an expensive Uber or Zipcar,” sophomore Elena Gajewski-Nemes said. “I think if students see their peers using the VTA system, they will be more likely to use it as well.”
Contact Emma Pollans at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.