Long Beach Press-Telegram: Long Beach City College to dole out more bus passes for local, disadvantaged students

1,000 students will get free bus passes as part of a pilot program.

Long Beach City College will offer 1,000 free bus passes in the fall semester — an increase of 700 — to help students facing transportation barriers.

The college has typically offered 300 free bus passes each semester for eligible students. But the expansion, which the college’s Board of Trustees approved this week, is part of a pilot program with Long Beach Transit that kicks off in August, according to administrators. To be eligible for the pilot, students must have a full-time course load, be in good standing,  and be in programs for the College Promise, those with disabilities, socioeconomically disadvantaged folks, foster youth or veterans.

Eligible students will start getting alerts from the college in June on how to sign up for the bus pass program.

“The students we are targeting are our students who are the most vulnerable,” said Mike Muñoz, vice president of Student Support Services. “In terms of not being able to get to school and transportation being a barrier for them.”

The pilot passed unanimously Wednesday night, May 22; the board will also consider possibly calling the program “Strong Beach.”

But some board members had concerns about the pilot’s limitations, such as not being available to part-time students.

“We all know that the reason students don’t succeed sometimes is not because the tuition’s too high or because they don’t study,” said Trustee Doug Otto. “But because they can’t get here or they have family issues that supersede this, have a car break down in the middle of the semester. But this is a great start.”

The pilot program has been in the works for nearly a year, since Trustee Uduak-Joe Ntuk introduced the idea to the board.

At Wednesday’s meeting, he said the pilot should help the college increase its enrollment, Long Beach Transit increase its ridership and the city reduce emissions.

But, Ntuk added, “ultimately, we want students to be academically successful — I want to say I’ve had four or five dozen inquiries on when this was coming — so I know there’s demand out there.”

Students not eligible for free bus passes at City College must pay $40 per month for one, Muñoz said — a cumbersome and lengthy process that sometimes takes weeks.

Under the pilot program, however, the process will be streamlined, allowing students to get the passes more quickly, Muñoz said. And the free passes will let students take as many rides as they want — whenever and wherever — in Long Beach Transit’s service area.

In the past, Long Beach Transit charged the college a flat rate for the 300 passes. But with the pilot, the transportation agency will charge City College based on how many rides each student takes.

“This is much more scalable,” Muñoz said this week. “It allows us to serve more students,” .

Each ride will cost the college 75 cents and, based on a survey of more than 2,400 students, officials anticipate each student will take approximately 27 rides per month. The total cost is approximately $150,000 per semester.

“We will be charged only on the specific ridership,” said Marlene Drinkwine, vice president of Business Services. “So if they go over the 27 (rides) per month, it’ll cost us more. If they go less, it will cost us less.”

In January, administrators will evaluate the program. They will look into how many students took advantage of the bus passes, the total cost, whether it can expand to more students and other ways to improve it.


Long Beach Press-Telegram

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