Farefree Transit at Colleges and Universities

ORCA transit cards can be integrated into Student ID’s

While at Tacoma Community College and at UW-Tacoma I was an advocate for blanket fare free transit agreements within student government.  Both campuses have growing student populations and thus a transportation demand that generally outstrips their parking supply.  The usual reaction to such concerns, especially the first week of the academic year, is to hear unending complaints about the need to expand parking lots and/or build new garages.  I have always encouraged a slightly different view that the schools should try managing their demand rather than simply increasing the supply of parking.

One arrangement which has shown considerable promise in this regard has been Unlimited Access agreements between student bodies and transit agencies.  Students and/or the educational institution in question cobble together a lump sum of funds and contracts with the transit agency to provide fare-free service for all students with a valid ID card.  The cost to students is around $30 a quarter, but varies from to institution to institution.

This has a number of benefits for both the transit agency and the students.  The transit agency benefits from a defined, stable, revenue stream, and a customer base that needs more transportation options and now doesn’t have to directly pay for them.  The student benefits if they drive by being more likely to be able to find a parking space and if the student chooses to take transit, they save themselves the expense of using a car to get to school – which can help low income students attend school and succeed.

Chris Karnes will be working to enable a partnership agreement between Pierce Transit and Tacoma Community College within the Pierce Transit Community Transportation Advisory Group in 2014.

Unlimited Access Agreements at local higher education institutions: