The Graduate and Professional Student Senate launched a pilot program Monday to provide discounted Metro Transit Access Pass cards to graduate students currently enrolled full time at USC.
The program, which is three years in the making, started after GPSS discussed the difficulty students had receiving passes from Metro at a Campus Affairs committee meeting in fall 2009.
Most graduate students did not qualify for the standard student discount cards offered by Metro because it requires enrollment in a minimum of 12 units per semester. Masters students generally take nine units and Ph.D. students usually take only three or four units per semester.
Graduate students will now have access to all Metro services until Dec. 16 for $25. The regular rate is $75 for nine weeks.
Ryan Estes, president of GPSS, said students’ initial reactions have been positive and GPSS hopes to increase the number of students participating in the program.
“We’ve got 250 people enrolled in the program so far and our goal is to get about 1,500,” Estes said. “If successful, the program will be continued next year.”
The pilot program is being funded by an increase in the programming fee that every graduate student is required to pay each semester upon enrollment. The programming fee has been increased to $35.50, an increase of $4.50 from last year.
If the subsidized Metro pass program becomes permanent next year, the programming fee will permanently increase another $4.50 to $39.50 and will remain at that amount.
Megan Pennington-Boggio, a Ph.D. student in chemistry, said the program will be helpful to commuter students like her.
“I used to drive to college, which turned out to be very expensive because of the high cost of fuel and parking,” Pennington-Boggio said. “If this program had been there when I [enrolled], I would have always taken public transport.”
Graduate students can apply to the program by filling out a form on the USC Transportation website, accessible by clicking “Grad Student Metro TAP Pass” in the Public Transit section.
“It was super easy and completely online,” Pennington-Boggio said. “I was done in like five minutes.”
Jenny Novak, former GPSS president and the program’s coordinator, said the program contributes to the university’s effort to create a more sustainable campus.
“The university board of trustees [supported] and [allowed] the increased programming fee, which made it all possible.” Novak said. “This program will encourage more students to take public transport.”
Novak said Metro’s unexpected TAP card price hike proved the biggest challenge in implementing the program.
“We had to renegotiate the whole deal, which was why the program couldn’t start at the beginning of the semester,” Novak said.
Discounted Metro cards became active Monday and can be picked up from the GPSS office at Ronald Tutor Campus Center room 224 after completing the online application and payment.
In mid-November, GPSS will meet with Metro to determine the future of the program. Estes said GPSS will work to make the reduced rates permanent for USC graduate students if it gets a strong positive reaction from students or sees a high participation rate.