SFAC Forum on Fees: Gator Pass Transit Fee

SFAC Forum on Fees: Gator Pass Transit Fee

The Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC) invited the student body to the second in a series of open forums on student fees. The purpose of the forum was to solicit student input on expanding the benefit of the Gator Pass to include SamTrans, the San Mateo County public transportation system.

For many years, SF State students sought to secure more affordable transportation to and from the university. Well over one-half of our students currently rely on public transportation and the costs associated with it are significant. With unwavering support from various student groups, in Spring 2015, Associated Students passed a resolution in support of the “Gator Pass”. In 2016 the CSU adopted Executive Order 1105 which authorized the Gator Pass Transit Fee. The first two Forums on Fees provide an overview of the Gator Pass program. Panelist will include members of the Student Fee Advisory Committee as well as university administrators working in support of the program.

The Gator Pass is supported by a mandatory fee paid by all enrolled students. In the Spring 2020 semester, as a part of the transition to remote operations due to the ongoing pandemic, the current fee of $180 was reduced to $0. Contractual obligations associated with the program required the campus to continue to meet financial obligations to MUNI and now the Gator Pass fund, which once had a surplus of funds, faces a less certain financial future unless action is taken soon.

 

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the Transit Pass?

The “Gator Pass” provides all SF State students unlimited rides on SF Muni trains and buses (similar to the ‘M’ Monthly Muni Pass, but excluding cable cars) a discount on all BART rides to and from the Daly City Station by using their SF State student ID (One Card). The transit pass makes public transportation more affordable, while also promoting values that are integral to SF State’s core such as sustainability, equity and community.  All SF State students-- full-time and part time, graduate and undergraduate-- pay the fee and have the value of the program.

 

How do we have access to the transit discount?

The One Card serve as both SF State ID cards, as well as Clipper cards. Clipper is the all-in-one transit card for the Bay Area. A Clipper card can hold transit passes, cash value, or any combination. The Gator Pass is made available on the One Card, and students can utilize their card for all of their Bay Area transit needs. For more on Clipper, visit www.clippercard.com.

 

Is the Gator Pass only for travel to and from SF State?

No. You can use the pass for all travel on Muni buses and light rail. You can also use the pass for all travel on BART, as long as you begin or end your BART ride at Daly City Station. Now under consideration is expanding the program to include SamTrans. This expansion will be discussed at the Forum on Fees.

 

Do other universities have transit discount passes?

Many universities (USF, UC Berkeley, various CSU’s) have a public transit discount for students similar to the Gator Pass. However, SF State is the first university to offer unlimited access to San Francisco through Muni in addition to a BART discount for students traveling to and from the Daly City Station.

 

How does the Gator Pass benefit the SF State community?

Encouraging public transit use is good for the environment and is cost-effective. 15% of SF State’s carbon gas emissions currently come from students driving alone to and from campus. The Gator Pass helps to reduce the campuses carbon footprint, relieves parking congestion and promotes equity for those students most in need.  All SF State students-- full-time and part time, graduate and undergraduate-- pay the fee and enjoy the benefits and value of the program.

 

Was the student body consulted in the development of the Gator Pass?

Polls conducted by both the University and Associated Students have supported the Gator Pass. In the 2014 Transportation Survey, 89% of online survey respondents (2,838 student respondents) said they would support a student fee for a transit fare reduction. This is up from 70% of support in 2011. In a survey conducted in February 2016, 94% of student survey respondents supported a $180 transportation student fee to receive a discounted MUNI and BART pass.

Expanding the Gator Pass to include SamTrans is an idea developed in the Spring 2020 semester.

Students’ individual savings will differ depending on what they currently pay, how often they come to SF State, and whether they will use their pass for travel in addition to coming to and from campus. Students are encouraged to calculate their own current transit costs to determine the value of the program for them. 

 

Will my student fees go up?

Yes. The restored fee amount for the Gator Pass will be decided in the next several days. It was originally anticipated that the Gator Pass Transit fee would increase by $5 annually to match the Muni and BART fare increases. Fortunately we have been able to hold the fee at $180 per semester for the past several years. Unfortunately, financial demands of operating the program require us to reinstate the fee in order to protect the long term stability of the program. The SFAC is looking into reinstating the fee at a reduced rate for the spring semester. If the fee is not restored in the Spring 2022 semester the program will most likely have to be suspended and risk dissolution.  More details on these possibility will be discussed at the forum.

 

Why should I have to pay this fee if I do not plan to use the Gator Pass?

Every student pays the fee, irrespective of whether they use the Gator Pass. While not every student will use the Gator Pass, it is to the university community’s collective benefit to avail all members of the student body with the opportunity to do so. Student fees are considered a cost of attendance; they are not user fees. Their assessment is not dependent on any one student’s use of fee-subsidized services and programs, but rather they are assessed based on an understanding that the related services enrich the student experience, help the university meet key goals, and generally create an environment conducive to the university’s pursuit of its mission.

 

Will my financial aid cover the Gator Pass fee?

Depending on the type of aid you receive, this answer will vary.  The Gator Pass is implemented through a mandatory local fee which are not paid for by State University Grants (SUG) or Cal Grants. However, because the Gator Pass fee would increase the overall cost of attendance, students would be afforded greater eligibility for work-study and loans. Loans and Pell Grant awards may be used to cover local fees like the Gator Pass. While the amount of a student’s award may not increase, it is anticipated that many students will save money with the Gator Pass by lowering the cost of their transportation-related expenses, thereby freeing up funds for other living expenses.

Scholarships may cover the Gator Pass fee but that is dependent on how the scholarship is set up by the donor or founder of the award. Students receiving scholarships should review the criteria for the award to see if local fees are covered.

 

When is the Gator Pass active and available for use?

Each student's Gator Pass is valid for use for the fall and spring semesters as long as they were enrolled in classes. The Gator Pass is active for the entire semester. At this time there are no plans to collect a fee and offer the Gator Pass over the January intersession or the summer sessions.