Bus pass referendum’s proposed rates debated

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A fee referendum on the 2012 ASUC general election ballot asks students to vote on the extension of the Class Pass after it is set to expire in 2013.

While referendum opponents have stated that the campus should attempt to negotiate a lower price for the pass — which gives students unlimited ridership on AC Transit and Bear Transit buses — others say AC Transit’s current policy is not to negotiate and that the proposed price is fair.

If approved by students, the referendum would initially lower the price of the pass to $77 per semester beginning in fall 2013 but would eventually increase the cost to $86 over a period of seven years.

SQUELCH! Senator and presidential candidate Noah Ickowitz has pledged to campaign against the referendum, as he feels the campus could get a better deal on the pass.

“I really love the Class Pass,” Ickowitz said.  “All I’m saying is that a ‘no’ vote on this referendum is just a ‘yes’ vote for negotiation because we still have the pass next year.”

Ickowitz advocated using the coming year, while the campus still has the current pass, to negotiate with AC Transit.

AC Transit gives the same rate to other campuses that have 10,000 students or more. Since UC Berkeley has about 36,000 students, it should get a cheaper rate or be able to waive the fee, Ickowitz said.

The last time the pass went up for a vote was in 2006, when about 80 percent of those who turned out voted to approve the pass.

Ickowitz previously attempted to lower the proposed contract from seven years to three years and was under the impression that it was going to be changed before the ASUC Senate voted to place the referendum on the ballot. However, the majority of senators voted in favor of the referendum without the changes Ickowitz hoped for.

Campus Director of Parking and Transportation Seamus Wilmot said that more than 32,000 students pick up the Class Pass sticker, but that actual usage of the pass was hard to track, though the Student Housing and Transportation Survey indicated that 20 percent of students used AC Transit to commute in fall 2008.

He added that the way AC Transit presented the price of the pass was not so much as something to be negotiated but rather as a set pricing matrix.

Philippe Marchand, assembly affairs vice president of the campus Graduate Assembly, said in an email that the total increase in cost that students would have to pay over the seven-year duration of the contract was just 10 percent, and that “in real dollars — accounting for inflation — the cost to students may actually decrease.”

“Given that all public services in California, including transit, are in a difficult fiscal position since the start of the recession, I’m actually surprised we got such a good deal,” Marchand said in the email.

He said in the email that the proposed pass will give students an “84% rebate over the cost of buying four monthly local AC Transit pass(es) themselves, or the cost of only 25 single AC Transit rides a semester at current fares.”

This does not take into account fares and bus passes to San Francisco, which are also included in the Class Pass.

Wilmot said the Class Pass Advisory Committee was comfortable with the price put forth by AC Transit.

“It was felt that that was a pretty good deal that the price is actually going to go down for three years,” he said.

Courtney Moulds covers student government.