SRJC cuts bus pass program

Jerome Janairo, News Editor

Students relying on public transportation will soon find it more difficult to commute to and from campus: SRJC has decided to stop subsidizing city and county bus passes due to budget cuts.

The termination of SRJC’s subsidization program means students will have to pay the full $40 price of CityBus passes that cost $16 under SRJC’s subsidization program and $45 for Sonoma County Transit passes instead of $22.50.

According to Doug Roberts, vice president of business affairs, the decision was an effort to save money. The college district will suffer additional cuts when the governor and the state legislature agree on a budget. “We are looking for savings everywhere we can,” he said.

Roberts said that the subsidization of bus passes cost the college district $130,000 a year with only 480 students (less than 2 percent of the student population) who take advantage of it. He added that the money used for subsidization is better used for other SRJC programs, especially in a time of financial hardship for the college district.

“When we’re asking employees to take salary concessions and we’re having to cut back on courses, you have to think, ‘Is this really a time that we can still be spending $130,000 to subsidize folks riding the bus?'” Roberts said.

Roberts added that with only 480 students using the subsidization program, the cost was not beneficial to the college as a whole.

Students affected by this decision are annoyed they have to pay more – and in some cases twice the amount – for bus passes.

“We don’t really have that much for financial aid as it is,” Desiree Pelton said, who rides the CityBus. “We’re spending it on classes and books. If we have to pay for the full price of the bus passes that means less things we can spend on actual school.”

Xavier Coelho-Kostolny, who commutes via Sonoma County Transit, is “miffed” by the price hike.

“I think that they should be doing everything in their power to get more students and cheap transportation is a good incentive,” Coelho-Kostolny said. He said while the decision doesn’t affect him too much financially but added: “I know there are a lot of people who work part time jobs and they are barely squeaking by. Having additional fees on top of that sucks.”

But John Furr, a Sonoma County Transit rider who works at the SRJC accounting department, says the price hike is reasonable enough.

“I don’t feel it’s that big of a deal,” Furr said. “It’s cost-effective. It saves money.”

According to Roberts, the subsidization program was originally created to offset problems with parking at the SRJC campus during the construction of the Don Zumwalt parking garage and was supposed to be terminated after the completion of the building. “It was never meant to last forever,” he said.

Roberts said that the SRJC Parking and Transportation committee is in talks with the city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County to develop a solution to keep the cost of bus passes low for students.

“The district would work with the students to see if we could find an alternative program to the one that is discontinued,” Roberts said.