SF State transit discount pass clears BART hurdle; students set to vote

BART has joined up with San Francisco agencies to provide students at San Francisco State University major transit discounts ahead of a vote by students that could propel the effort forward.

The “Gator Pass,” so named for the school’s reptilian mascot the Golden Gator, will offer free Muni rides across The City, as well as discounted rides of up to 25 percent to and from Daly City BART station, the BART station closest to the school. The service is set to launch in fall of 2017.

But as little as a year ago, BART was the lone holdout as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was set to offer discounts to SFSU students.

“We know the students have wanted this for awhile,” said Jonathan Morales, a spokesman for SFSU. “Now we’re waiting for them to have their voices heard through an election.”

The school’s Associated Students group is set to vote whether to support the Gator Pass next month.

The pass was a joint effort between students, Rep. Jackie Speier, Supervisor Scott Wiener, BART board director Nick Josefowitz, the MTC, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and BART.

The proposed pass has languished for years, and only now have all the agreements settled into place, said Wiener, who played a role in bringing BART to the table for the Gator Pass.
“When you talk to the students at SF State, [many] can’t afford to live in The City and commute a significant distance, they have to rely on BART. It’s a crushing expense,” Wiener said Tuesday.

To make the Gator Pass feasible, all students — regardless of whether they take public transit — would pay a $180 per semester student fee, or $45 a month. That’s cheaper than the combined cost of Muni and BART for students. One supporter of the measure wrote to the student group that they spend as much as $250 a month in transportation fees.

“I’m a nanny; I travel all over The City,” said Amanda Tarwater, a liberal studies major at SFSU. As she waited for a bus on busy 19th Avenue, she said she spends as much as $180 a month on public transit.

The fee would be good for the school, she said, because, “I think it would encourage people to take public transit.”

But not all students support paying the fee.

Mustafa D, an electrical engineering major who declined to give his last name, said, “I think there should be an option to opt out” of the fee, because he seldom uses public transit, he said.

The BART discount was the sticking point in the Gator Pass, Wiener said, as the agency needed to balance ongoing fiscal issues. Minimizing the cost to BART was worked out with help from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Josefowitz, Wiener said.

The Associated Students’ resolution argues the transit pass may encourage more students to take public transit, which could help curb the school’s greenhouse gas emissions, which rose by 15 percent from 2008 to 2014.

According to the Associated Students, 94 percent of 1,077 students in a poll said they would support a $180 transportation student fee to receive a discounted Muni and BART pass.

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