ASUC Senate may vote again on a bus pass referendum

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The ASUC Senate may vote once again on a bus pass referendum a few weeks after it approved a referendum for the upcoming 2012 ASUC general election to extend unlimited rides on AC Transit and Bear Transit.

ASUC President Vishalli Loomba — one of the original authors of the bill that put the Class Pass referendum on the ballot — said she believed she might submit an altered Class Pass bill that would lower the duration of the pass from seven years to three years. Consideration of a new bill came from meetings with SQUELCH! Senator Noah Ickowitz and representatives from AC Transit, she said.

The senate previously voted Feb. 15 in favor of a bill that places a referendum on the ballot asking students whether they support an extension of the pass, which is set to expire in 2013.  If approved by voters, the referendum would eventually increase the price of the pass from about $79 to $86 per semester.

Ickowitz — the only senator who voted against the original bill — said he was considering submitting a rival class pass referendum if the original referendum was not changed.  Ickowitz said his referendum would propose using the next year to research and negotiate a better deal, as well as stipulate that students should not accept the original referendum.

“If we can’t get a change in the length of the contract by the deadline to file a referendum, then I will oppose the class pass referendum as it stands,” Ickowitz said in an email, adding that with a compromise of a three-year contract he would “reluctantly” accept the referendum.
Loomba said she personally felt the current price and length of the referendum was fine and that the conversations with AC Transit resulted from Ickowitz’s concerns. She added that she wanted to make sure Ickowitz had all the information before actively campaigning against the referendum.

According to the 2010-11 Class Pass annual report, the campus paid AC Transit over $2.3 million that year from Class Pass funds. If the current referendum is approved by students, AC Transit would receive over $2.5 million from the campus during the 2013 fiscal year.

AC Transit sets pass prices based on student populations to provide better deals for schools with larger populations. However, the tier-based pricing system levels off at student populations of 10,000, meaning that UC Berkeley — with about 36,000 students — pays the same per unit price as a school with three and a half times fewer students.  According to Seamus Wilmot, campus director of parking and transportation, his department accepted AC Transit’s price system and did not engage in further negotiating.

“(Changing the price) is a very long conversation,” Loomba said.

This is the first Class Pass that is a student-led referendum, according to Wilmot. The 2006  referendum that put the current pass in place until 2013 was led by his department with student input, Wilmot said.

If there is a change in the referendum language — including the price of the pass or the length of the contract — the bill will need to be reapproved by ASUC Attorney General Deepti Rajendran and the senate, according to Rajendran.

And because of the timeline to submit referendums for this year’s election, a bill would need to be introduced at next week’s senate meeting in order to be approved on time, Rajendran said.

Chloe Hunt is the lead student government reporter.