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ASMC seeks bus passes for students

Courtney Booker

The Associated Students of Mills College recently voted to begin the process of securing bus passes for the student body.

Katie Johnson, senior and ASMC Sustainability Senator, is a driving force in the project to get optional semester passes for use on the AC Transit bus system.

Last May, the Peralta Colleges Board of Trustees approved a one-year pilot program with the public transit agency. Oakland’s Laney College is one of four colleges where students were able to purchase discounted passes beginning this fall.

“Bus passes would improve the transportation options for students,” explained David Gin, associate vice president for Financial Services, “whether they commute to campus or just move around our outside community.” He is helping Johnson and ASMC with their efforts.

Part of the College’s Strategic Plan for fall 2007 through spring 2013 is “environmental and fiscal sustainability,” and encouraging the use of buses over cars is in line with that goal. Having reduced-cost transportation options would also take the pressure off Public Safety in meeting the Mills community’s demand for more frequent shuttles.

Students said they are still in the early stages of deciding exactly how such a partnership would work. On Nov. 13, Johnson and fellow senior Samantha Foster, president of the ASMC, will meet with AC Transit officials to discuss options. Gin, Virginia Rivera, vice president of Development at Institutional Advancement, with more possible students, staff, and faculty, will also be present.

Who should get the passes is one question that coordinators must answer.

“What is a student?” asked Gin. “Should this pass be given out to all students at the beginning of the year or be available to buy at a discounted rate?”

He added that it is important the pass go to the students money to offer the card and having it not be used is a waste of resources,” he said.

Johnson described more points to consider. “Should it go to everyone? Would the bus pass be for AC Transit alone?”

Mills students frequently use BART and San Francisco’s Muni transit system. The Bay Area’s new TransLink card, in testing, will work with AC Transit, BART, Muni, Golden Gate Transit, and Caltrain, all nearby and easily accessible.

Rocky Fernandez, a member of the Board of Directors of AC Transit, said it is his personal goal to put bus passes in the hands of all students at East Bay colleges.

“I would love it if there was a pass for staff and faculty, too,” said Gin. “I know I’d use it. I don’t even drive. But I think that’s asking too much.”

Niviece Robinson, assistant director of Campus Safety, is more optimistic.

“A lot of companies offer a subsidized bus pass for their employees,” she said, “to encourage commuting. It’s not unreasonable that it could happen here.”

Robinson also agrees that she would use a pass designed for faculty and staff members.

She said Public Safety has been in contact with AC Transit for some time. Earlier this year, a representative from the transit agency gave a presentation on how to encourage more commuting and discounted bus passes was an option. Therefore, Robinson said, “We’re more than happy to support ASMC.”

However, Johnson said some staff members have shown hesitation in perusing bus passes.

“There have been a lot of false starts,” she said. “But the student initiative makes it a whole new thing. Students are the consumer and we can make it happen. Everyone involved is optimistic.”