A.S. transit subsidy funds run out

A.S. will no longer provide students with a subsidy for 10-day and monthly public transit passes due to lack of funding. Photo Credit: Christianna Triolo / Staff Photographer

Pierre Lizarraga, 19, sophomore majoring in Pre-CTVA, wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to commute to CSUN. He rides the MTA from Firestone Park and was utilizing the A.S. transit subsidy on a monthly basis.

“It takes me about two hours to get to school,” Lizarraga said. ”Right now I’m actually unemployed. I saved a bit.”

Lizarraga said that saving even a little bit of money helps.

Ken Etter, who graduated with his Masters in business in 2000 and manager of support services for A.S. said the subsidy fund program is not cut, rather needs more funds.

“We will begin to again provide subsidizes in August and this is no fault to anyone, but the program was so well received and we’re thrilled, but it’s not cut and were definitely keeping it,” Etter said. “We just need more money and are thrilled the student used it.”

Etter said he thinks that all of the increases that have hit students have increased the amount of students who ride public transportation.

“I’d love to say this program is just so great, and that’s why there is an increase in subsidizes but there are a lot of different causes why students need to save money this year,” Etter said.

Etter said the subsidy fund has annual funding that needs to be budgeted.

“This is the first year we decided to produce the subsidies and it was received more than we ever expected,” Etter said. “The fund went into effect July 1, 2010 but all the money was used by the end of March. It was only proposed to go through the end of May. We are proposing to increase funding, for next year.”

A.S. Ticket Office  Manager, John Valdez, who graduated in 2000 with a degree in math, said the transit subsidy includes a few different types of transportation.

“It includes MetroLink, AVTA  (a bus from Lancaster) and the MTA,” Valadez said.

“Before we ran out of funds, people from A.S. did a survey on the transit program and found students were thrilled to save money, so I know they’re upset now,” Valadez said.

Lizarraga said he is trying to make the best of the situation.

“At least I get the Student Pass, which I applied for after learning that the subsidy money is gone,” Lizarraga said.

Valadez said the same students tend to ride month to month.

“This year we had $50,000 in subsidy and that was $20 per student per month, so $2,500 total number subsidized between August to March,” Valadez said.
Etter said subsidies are only available during the regular school year.

“January won’t have any subsidies because the university isn’t in session. The same thing goes for June and July. We want to make it more affordable for students because everything else is going up,” Etter said. “When the program was first proposed the cost of transit ironically went up about 10 to 15 percent.”

Etter said they started out with $40,000 to use towards subsidies and $10,000 to use for advertising.  Signs were put up in the A.S. ticket office and during the first week they also advertised the subsidy in the newspaper.

“All of A.S. is committed to the greening of the environment and the idea of subsidies was brought because it provides students relief on the price pressure of gas and helps our core values in greening the environment,” Etter said.

Valdez said in order for students to receive the $20 off they must buy either the month pass or two of the ten-trip (five roundtrip) passes.

Conor Lansdale, A.S. vice president, who will be A.S. president next year, said he will be making positive student transportation changes on campus.

“I look forward to working towards bringing a metro substation on campus so that students may have a more convenient experience, and make them enjoy being a Matador more than the average Bruin,” Lansdale said.

Lansdale added that the program has been a success.

“This program is great because the students who use it are the marketers for it, they are creating buzz through word of mouth,” Lansdale said. “We haven’t used too many marketing materials beside a simple poster and A-Frame campaign.”

Lansdale said he supports public transportation.

“I will push for an increase in the Transit Subsidy program, the only issue is that the funds must be negotiated with the university first, and if that is denied then we can allocate funds from unassigned contingency (the fund that clubs and organizations utilize for their programs),” Lansdale said.