Vote Yes for Transportation

Opinion - Elyse Yang May 19jpgUCSD Transportation and Parking Services may be broken, but it is now up to students to make the right choice and help each other get to school affordably. We endorse voting yes in this week’s transportation referendum for the students’ best interests.

The plan proposed in the referendum is by far the cheapest way to ensure that all students, both undergraduates and graduates, continue to have affordable access to mass transportation. Ideally, providing more on-campus housing would reduce the number of students that rely on mass transit, but dorms and apartments at UCSD are already far too crowded. With that said, we must find a solution that can accommodate commuters who are operating on a tight budget. Without the referendum, thousands of students who rely on the bus every day will struggle to find an affordable way to get to campus. From this perspective, the referendum is hardly discretionary; getting to and from campus should never be a barrier that prevents students from receiving their education.

The referendum is based directly on preferences that were indicated by survey data; it was written by the students, for the students. Therefore, this benefits an overwhelming amount of the UCSD population. If the referendum is not passed, students who use the bus on a daily basis will be required to fork over roughly $72 per month; this is simply unfeasible for those who have to pay for their own tuition or struggle with other bills. The referendum, on the other hand, only requires students to pay about $50 per quarter, which translates to a much more reasonable $16 per month. This subsidized fee is an incredible four times less than the standard rate, which commuters would have to pay if the referendum fails. The referendum also stands to benefit students receiving scholarships and aid, as 29 percent of the transportation fees are mandated to go to UCSD’s financial aid fund.

The Regional Transit Pass — a direct result of the referendum’s passage — will provide students with expanded access to different modes of transportation throughout San Diego. It guarantees students unlimited ridership on the trolley, light rail routes and all mass transit buses, expanding access to every corner of the San Diego area. In effect, students would actually be given better services for a quarter of the price. This would open more convenient and cost-efficient travel possibilities for getting around various parts of San Diego, as well as enable students to explore the city more easily.

For students who do not use the bus system very frequently, the transportation referendum may seem like an unnecessary financial burden. However, it is important to realize that transportation is just one of the many services that all students pay for but do not always utilize. We may not all use RIMAC, participate in student organizations and athletics or attend the Sun God Festival, but these and many other valuable and popular student resources are always available to us if we choose to use them, which most do.

If we don’t pass the referendum, there will not only be cuts to shuttle services, but more students may choose to drive to campus, thus making parking lots and other areas surrounding UCSD far more crowded. With over 10,000 commuter students who currently rely on the bus system to get to and from campus, it is critical to pass a referendum that serves that constituency. While student concerns about the introduction of yet another expense are completely understandable, it is important to keep in mind that the proposed, modest fee increase is only a small burden in comparison to the lingering issues that would arise if the referendum fails.

In order for the referendum to have a chance of passing, there needs to be a 20-percent voter turnout, so make sure to get to the polls. Whether you support or oppose the referendum, it is just as important to cast a vote and participate in the process. At the end of the day, students will be the ones that are affected by this mandate, whether a $50 quarterly fee is implemented or all transportation services are lost.

8 thoughts on “Vote Yes for Transportation

  1. “Why I voted YES on Transportation”

    There are realistic solutions to our transportation crisis, and there are fantasy solutions. Fantasy solutions involve students taking shuttles or buses onto campus without paying a dime (notwithstanding tuition and other, unrelated fees): it’s just not going to happen at UCSD in the near future.

    The cost to bring approximately 10,000 students to campus via shuttles and buses is somewhere on the order of $3-4Million annually. Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, many students will get to campus via the Superloop or something similar. So, who will pay for it?

    Contrary to the Guardian’s statement that a monthly student pass will cost $72, MTS offers a discounted rate of $57.60, and a quarterly pass for ~$117, (which comes to $39 per month) (*1), unless the administration approves the tentative subsidies of 20-35% proposed last year (*2). In any case, the Fee would cost $49.96-$53.82 per quarter, or about ~$17 per month, which any way you slice it, is significantly less per rider than the out-of-pocket costs.

    Yet, obviously others would be paying the fee and not necessarily taking the bus: those who live on campus or drive to campus. Why should they vote to tax themselves $150 per year?

    # 1 Supply and demand: parking spots.
    It’s already hard enough to get parking spots on campus west of the 5. Now imagine thousands of students making the decision “do I pay $39 per month for the bus, or $41 to buy a 10-pack of S stickers.” If you think circling around looking for parking is annoying now, just wait until hundreds more drivers are vying for the same spots. But what about East campus, you say? Well, in the next 5 years, MANY constructions projects will impact parking. Some of them are capital improvements (*3), which are winding down. But there is also the Trolley, Voigt widening, Gilman bridge, and I-5 bike path/widening, ALL HAPPENING IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS (*4). These projects are slated to temporarily impact roughly 1,000 parking spots within the next 5 years. So if you are a driver, consider the fee as a way of paying people off NOT to take your parking spot.

    # 2: If you live on campus/don’t need the bus now, you might live off campus/need the bus in the future.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you will the entire MTS system at your disposal, in case your car breaks down, you want to take the Trolley downtown or to the mall?

    # 3: Supporting Public transportation is in EVERYONE’S interest.
    Economic choices often have negative externalities that are not reflected in their monetary cost. Driving is one of those: it increases pollution, C02 emissions, congestion, and dependence on oil from Middle East dictatorships, for example. Getting drivers to take public transportation not only reduces those negative consequences, but also makes it easier for OTHER drivers to find parking (see point #1). If we transition completely towards a user-fee based transit system, we encourage more people to find alternative solutions. The easiest one? Driving.

    # 4: Biking to campus isn’t safe for most people.
    Having to cross freeway on ramps, 8 lane roads, and navigate shoulders full of debris and parked car doors, and vehicles zooming by at 50mph, don’t make for a safe environment for the VAST majority of potential cyclists. Sure, for those of us who are confident in those conditions, riding a bike is cheap, fast and healthy. But it’s not for everyone – plus there things like rain, flat tires, and heavy books that would still get in my way.

    Furthermore, can campus’s cobbled-together bike system handle thousands more bikes? TS didn’t even consider implementing any of the bike plan (*5), because it cost $3M. Once they have reserves built back up, this type of thing will be possible. But that won’t happen for several years – and the bike plan doesn’t even address getting TO campus.

    # 5: Equal access to education.
    Not everyone can afford the dormitories. If you live at home, maybe right now you are buying a $47 quarterly pass (*6). This would increase to $117. Equal access to a public education is a right that all people deserve. For those of us fortunate enough to afford to live in a dormitory and/or drive a car, paying $351 per year instead of $141 to take the bus does not seem like a huge deal. But charging the full $117 per quarter will disproportionately affect those who can least afford it.

    —————————–

    We all agree that it’s unfortunate that the Bus Zone worked the way it did, and was essentially funded on the backs of future UCSD members. The administration must be held accountable for whatever occurs during the next 5 years. The parking situation is only going to get worse before it will get better. But when TS regains its financial footing, it will be able to implement the ideas that Robert Holden has been pioneering, including license-plate recognition technology, parking lot sensors that tell you if the lot is full, signs and mobile Apps that can show you where there is free parking on campus.

    IF THE REFERENDUM PASSES, WE STILL HAVE TO BE ACTIVE, VIGILANT CITIZENS.

    What can you do?
    – Join GSA or AS, do some committee work
    – Write a letter to your AS Senator, or GSA rep.
    – Start a movement to ask TS to change their parking hierarchy so that S passes are cheaper in the East campus, or
    – Engage administrators like in Planning to get them to work with SANDAG to improve the bike safety at the La Jolla Village/I5 interchange.
    – go to Transportation and other town halls, and participate!

    Jeremy Davis-Turak

    VOTE NOW! http://students.ucsd.edu/

    (Full disclosure: I helped write the referendum. I’m a grad student and I’m graduating over the summer. I sit on the Transportation Policy Committee, and at various times I have used Mesa/bicycle, Hillcrest, 921 and driving my own vehicle (B OU) as my primary mode of commuting to campus).

    1 http://www.sdmts.com/college_fare.asp, although UCSD info is listed as TBD; all other passes there are for semester periods and are therefore more expensive.
    2 The administration just released an unsigned document (http://moveucsandiego.ucsd.edu/Student-Transportation-Services-With-Student-Fee.pdf) that details potential changes: many of these details have NEVER been discussed with the UCSD population – and as the title states, they are JUST possibilities: but in any case I have it on good confidence that the ‘powers that be’ want to decouple Transit subsidies from parking revenues.
    3 http://physicalplanning.ucsd.edu/projects/map.html
    4 According to Todd Berven. Data forthcoming via Robert Clossin
    5 http://physicalplanning.ucsd.edu/plans/docs/2012_UCSD_BPMPS.pdf
    6 http://blink.ucsd.edu/facilities/transportation/commuting/solutions/transit-coaster.html#-What-does-it-cost?

  2. What will happen to S permit prices if this fee increase fails? Are they still going to push the costs onto us like they were planning to last year by increasing our permit prices? Its ridiculous that drivers are the only one supporting the entire transportation services…no wonder they are in debt.

    1. I suspect fee increases will be in the works across the board, and if last years fiasco was any indication, possibly by as much as 10%. Ill look at this mathematically why its not a bad thing.

      S permit year parking is $61/mo, $732/yr or roughly $550 for the full school year (assuming you were on a budget and start/stopped your permit when you werent using it). Assuming a 10% price increase, you will be paying $67.10/mo or $805.20/yr or roughly $604 for the actual school year (same numbers as before, just adjusted).

      If you vote yes on this measure *and* parking permit rates stay the same, you will be spending $61/mo, $732/yr or roughly $550 + ~$150 for the school year. This means you will be overpaying by ~$96 for the school year ($700 vs $604). Of which, almost half of the overage (~$44) is to support need-based financial aide. Stated in another way, as a permit holder, voting yes means you will ultimately pay more than any current proposed fee increases, and that money that you are paying over the fee increase will be used in ways other than what really needs funding at this time.

      So ask yourself: You are a permit holder, and your money is directly supporting everything good and bad about TPS as well as everyone who takes the bus and mooches your hard-earned cash… what do you believe should be done about the referendum? Then vote accordingly.

  3. I have never understood why these referendums direct money towards financial aid and scholarships. You pay…and hope to get some money back? What?

    1. Its a requirement of the university… essentially any new fee levied on students will be required to budget 29% toward need-based financial aide and cannot be waived except for (I think the only 1) is health services. In the case of the TPS referendum, if UCSD made shuttle services an user opt-in (pay per use) rather than require all students to pay for it, then the revenue would not be subject to the 29% mandated return to aide. Im not for/against financial aide, but I think that this is a cash grab by UCSD since the option to have a “you pay for what you use” was never put on a referendum by students. Sure, you will have lower revenue, but its not like students are going to stop coming to classes entirely because they have to pay for their buses and in this setup: (a) people who use buses will pay for their use (b) TPS will still be able to bring themselves out of the financial black hole they supernova’d for themselves (c) if and when TPS return back to financial stability, permit prices will drop (fat chance though… historically speaking, fees never go down or go away).

  4. I wont be supporting this, heres why. TPS is current in the red by several millions of dollars, sources of which are irrelevant at this point. Payments need to be made to MTS, which has been currently supported by parking permit purchases. This means that students who are currently riding the shuttles who dont have a vehicle have never spent a dime toward their own transportation.

    Now, a campus wide fees on students will mean the roughly 5,000 or 1/4 of UG students who purchase parking permits will be paying TWICE for services that they are least likely to use. On top of that, all students will be mandated to give 29% of the proposed fees toward need based scholarships. While the merit of need based scholarships is indeed worthy (but a completely separate discussion), this policy by the university means that about 1/3 of the money that was to directly support a deficit will be earmarked for something else that doesnt address the underlying issue.

    Additionally, this hole that TPS is in is due, in a major part, to 2 things: supporting the hospital parking structures which the vast, vast majority of permit holders will never use and the paving over of parking lots to make way for buildings/dorms. As such, to saddle students with the poor planning of the people who did not think about the parking requirements of adding 100s of new beds and dozens of offices is unjust. Take the village, for example. It was designed for transfer students, who will probably be older than the general UG population and who will most likely have a vehicle due to their lifestyle of commuting to CCs. Tell me how many parking spots were built for them?

    The parking permit system was sustainable when parking was ample, UCSD didnt start its own 2006-style housing boom, and (if) medical maintained their own structures (and the argument that they havent historically done so isnt a valid point because history changes– ask blockbuster and seriously, there is no way they have ever paid more into the parking budget than they are requiring).

    Setting up an AUX service to be able to extract money directly from students is a bad thing. What happens if the janitors need a pay raise but the university wont sponsor it? Will there be a sanitary fee too?

    TPS needs trim services and let the riders who use the services pay for their transporation. People with cars pay it. People without cars who commute via other means pay it. Let the bus-riders pay it–finally.

    1. You hit the nail on the head. Why should students who drive to campus be forced to cover 100% of the MTS and campus bus expenses when they rarely, if ever, use these services?
      It seems as though both AS and TPS don’t understand the basic concepts of having people pay for services rendered. The people who use the bus system (MTS or campus) are currently receiving a service that costs millions of dollars annually without paying a dime.
      I think a far better solution than the current referendum would be a system where the campus shuttles are funded by a quarterly or annual bus pass for students who want/need to purchase it and a separate opt-in payment option for the MTS system. This way, the cost burden of both those services actually falls on the people who use them, and the money currently wasted on bus stickers for students who don’t use MTS is saved. This system would also allow UCSD TPS to better assess the need level for Arriba and Nobel shuttled because there would be a fixed number of students each quarter paying towards those services.
      For these common sense reasons, I will be voting NO on this referendum, and I hope that other logical people also vote NO.

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