PSU redesigns bus pass program

Portland State students looking to buy a discounted bus pass will find that the university’s bus pass program has changed.

No longer offering discounted monthly passes, PSU now offers the $120 “FlexPass” that lasts for an entire term.

In addition to all-zone Tri-Met transit usage, the new pass offers free membership to the campus bicycle co-op (opening in two weeks), discounted daily parking and $35 in free usage with eight “Flexcars” (a car-sharing program in which you pay an hourly rate and the Flexcar company provides the car, insurance and gas) that are available on campus.

According to Dan Zalkow, manager of transportation and parking, the FlexPass is part of PSU’s goal to offer alternative modes of transportation with a program that’s cheaper and more practical for students.

In 2003, PSU’s Transportation and Parking Services conducted a telephone poll of 405 PSU students to find out the percentage of student modes of transportation. Of those polled, 31.5 percent of those students rode transit, 40 percent of whom paid for it with the purchase of discounted monthly PSU pass.

But the survey concluded that a reduced monthly Tri-Met pass wouldn’t increase Tri-Met usage. So why offer the FlexPass?

“We want to provide options for students,” Zalkow said. With the rising price of parking passes, at $231 a term for Monday to Friday verses $222 a term last year, he says students may opt for the FlexPass instead.

And with only 3,900 parking spaces for 24,000 students the option for a less expensive Tri-Met pass is, he says, a good alternative.

DeAnn Sandburg, Tri-Met’s Marketing Representative, said the years spent developing a transit pass program that would work for PSU was complicated because of the tight budgets of both PSU and students.

Tri-Met also no longer offers subsidies, which they say they phased out because they found offering subsidies didn’t increase transit use.

In 1998 a program Tri-Met conducted with PSU to see if subsidized transit passes would increase the use of public transportation found that they did not.

The only discount PSU receives from Tri-Met for the new FlexPasses is a 10 percent discount by signing a one-year contract.

PSU subsidizes an additional $20 with Parking and Transportation revenue, buying the FlexPass for $140 and selling them for $120. That revenue comes from PSU parking permits, meters and parking citations. Ten percent of that total revenue is used to subsidize alternative transportation programs, which the FlexPass is a part of.

Now students pay for three-month passes at a price that averages $40 a month, $5 less then the price of a monthly Tri-Met pass last year.

Over 2,000 students have already purchased the FlexPass and Zalkow says 1,000 more are expected to purchase it.

But not all students are happy with the FlexPass options Parking and Transportation advertises.

Zalkow said some students want to purchase the discounted monthly $40 Tri-Met Pass but are forced to purchase the FlexPass instead, as the discounted monthly pass isn’t available anymore.

Kam Barron, head cashier at Transportation and Parking, said the positive aspects of the FlexPass outweigh the negative ones. Students don’t have to purchase a new pass every month – they can now place the charge on their account and a sticker is placed on their ID card instead of having to carry around a pass.

Harmony Grant, a senior who lives in Gresham, uses the MAX and the bus to commute to school. She says she probably won’t use the other options with FlexPass, but, as a proponent of public transportation, is a supporter of PSU’s goal to offer alternative forms of transportation at a reasonable price.