In a 2010 survey, 28 percent of students who drive alone to school said that they would be more likely to take mass transit if the pass was less expensive.
With this in mind, a group of students has unveiled a proposal for a universal transit pass that would be provided for every student.
Currently, students can purchase a reduced-rate $190 quarterly transit pass that gives them access to TriMet busses, light rail, and streetcar. But due to budget shortfalls, TriMet will be raising rates and eliminating the Free Rail Zone this September. As a result, the student pass will increase to $205 per term for the 2012–2013 academic year, with continued increases of 8–10 percent for the following two years
In contrast, a universal transit pass would provide transit access to all students, spreading the cost across the entire student body through a student fee.
The Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) would need to approve the fee and bring the proposal before the student body for a vote.
According to surveys conducted by the student team, a majority of PSU students would be interested in—and willing to pay for—a universal transit pass.
“We have gotten very positive feedback from most people,” said Zef Wagner, a graduate urban planning student working on the project. “Many people have said they were really surprised when they came to PSU and found out a transit pass was not included with tuition and fees.”
The students were awarded funding from the 2012 Solutions Generator to complete the proposal. The Solutions Generator is a program of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions that funds student ideas to make campus more sustainable.
Reducing trips to campus made by car is a key goal of PSU’s Climate Action Plan, which outlines PSU’s path toward carbon neutrality by 2040. Fewer car trips, replaced by increased transit and bicycle ridership, will help PSU reduce greenhouse gas emissions even as enrollment increases over the next decade.
Many universities across the country have transit programs that are funded by student fees. The University of Washington, for instance, has a universal transit pass program that has successfully reduced transit costs and increased ridership.
“It would be a powerful statement if PSU was a school where all students have full access to transit,” Wagner said.