This story is from the archives of UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

OPEN TICKET TO PUBLIC TRANSIT A GOOD IDEA

                                                                                                                                                    

BY JEFFREY BROWN AND DONALD SHOUP

     Imagine a new program that reduces traffic congestion, helps clean the air, provides more parking for students who really need it and is easy to use.

     UCLA's Transportation Services is working to make this vision a reality. They are negotiating with Santa Monica Transit to create an "Unlimited Access" program that will transform student identification cards into transit passes. At universities where students can ride public transit to campus for free, transit ridership has increased, parking demand has shrunk and students have more transportation options.

     The program is simple. Students who use public transit will show their Bruin Card as they board a bus, and UCLA will then pay for the rides that students make. UCLA can pay for fare-free transit for all students with the money it would otherwise spend to build parking structures. For example, UCLA has just spent $33 million to expand Parking Structure 4. Each new parking space costs the university $170 per month for capital and operating costs. UCLA then sells permits to park in these new spaces for $43 per month and loses more than $100 per space per month. By contrast, the average cost of student-transit pass programs at other universities is $36 per student per year.

     UCLA's pilot program with Santa Monica Transit will be based on transit programs already in place at four other UC campuses — Davis, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Berkeley is considering a similar program for its students. If the pilot program is successful, it can be extended to the other transit lines that serve UCLA.

     Unlimited Access will be a good recruiting tool. Now, UCLA's transportation image centers on the horror stories students hear about the difficulty in finding a place to park.  Unlimited Access will not only help to solve the parking problem for students who drive to campus, but will also serve the 23,000 students who do not drive to campus.  Students who don't have cars will gain access to an array of cultural, educational and recreational opportunities. More than 1,100 buses arrive at UCLA every weekday, and Unlimited Access will allow students to ride these buses to the Getty Center, the Los Angeles County Museum, the beach or anywhere else they want to go — for free.

     Unlimited Access will be coming online at an opportune time. UCLA will soon lose 1,400 parking spaces when Parking Structure 14 is torn down to make way for the new hospital. How should we make up for the loss of these spaces? We can construct more parking spaces at an astronomical cost to serve a few students or we can reduce the need for these spaces by providing an Unlimited Access program for all students.

     The Legislative Assembly and the Faculty Welfare Committee of the Academic Senate, the Graduate Students Association and the Undergraduate Students Association have all voted to endorse a transit benefit for faculty, staff and students. Everybody at UCLA wants Unlimited Access.

Jeffrey Brown is a Ph.D. student in urban planning and Donald Shoup is director of UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies. 

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