Los Rios and Rio Hondo Community College Districts: Discounted Student Transportation Program
The Los Rios and Rio Hondo Community College Districts wanted to create a program offering substantially discounted unlimited bus passes for community college students.
- City buses could be accessed at any time on any route, not just to and from school.
- The passes would be made available at a rate of $2 to $20 per student, reflecting a substantial potential discount of over $1000 per student.
Challenges & Opportunities:
- Due to existing regulations, there were limits on what the districts could charge, even if the students approved being charged a reduced bus fare.
- Despite the incredible value of the offer, the bill faced resistance due to the perception that it was an unwarranted increase to student fees.
- The benefits of more students taking public transportation include:
- Students without any available private transportation could get to school.
- Students choosing the bus instead of a private car would save on fuel costs and parking fees.
- Fewer cars result in less crowded parking areas and neighborhoods.
- Fewer cars result in cleaner air, reduced traffic and made the colleges eligible for grant funding from the Air Quality Management District (AQMD.)
- The transit system could justify the return-on-investment by leveraging the economies of scale based on the large number of students at each campus.
Patrick comments: “Nothing’s easy—this program sounds relatively simple—but nothing is easy in California politics. It requires full-time work to guide through a term-limited legislature.”
To advocate on behalf of the students and the District, McCallum Group:
- Built a coalition between the Districts, the Air Quality Management Board, the local transit districts and the students.
- Strategically chose the author of the bill—Assemblyman Tim Leslie, Dave Jones and Sandre Swanson ran the bill.
- Brought in students who supported the program to share personal stories of the difference that affordable access to public transportation would make.
- Promoted the effort as a partnership between the Community College Districts and the transit agencies.
Mark adds: “Working within a term-limited legislature is like giving a speech to a parade. As soon as you have a relationship developed with a legislative member and they are well up-to-speed on the relevant issues, they are gone. Because of this reality, sustaining momentum on this issue was key to the success of the effort.”
The program was approved for both Districts, and has been running successfully since 2006.
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