Student body President Rudy Soto is working on a plan that would use student fee dollars to help reduce the cost of the FlexPass, which he says could lower the price of the $150 pass by anywhere between $50 to over $100. Soto said that if student fees subsidized the pass program, the cost of the passes would drop, making the FlexPass more affordable for students. The FlexPass allows PSU students to ride any public transportation system, such as the MAX or buses, to any part of the city.
Student body President Rudy Soto is working on a plan that would use student fee dollars to help reduce the cost of the FlexPass, which he says could lower the price of the $150 pass by anywhere between $50 to over $100.
Soto said that if student fees subsidized the pass program, the cost of the passes would drop, making the FlexPass more affordable for students. The FlexPass allows PSU students to ride any public transportation system, such as the MAX or buses, to any part of the city.
TriMet currently sells FlexPasses to Portland State’s transportation department at a discounted rate. The department then gives students an additional discount, reducing the cost of a three-month all-zone TriMet pass to $150.
The Housing and Transportation Services at PSU calculated rough estimates of how much money student fees would have to subsidize in order to bring the cost of the FlexPass down.
If the SFC were to subsidize $750,000 in student fees to the FlexPass program, the price would drop to about $94.44, based on the number of students who bought the pass, according to estimates by Dan Zalkow, assistant director of the department. It would take about $2 million in student fees, according to the estimates, to drop the price to about $34. Soto said the department will work on more specific estimates soon.
Student Fee Committee Chair Amanda Newberg said that Soto will not be able to get funds for the idea right now because he did not propose the idea when ASPSU presented their budget for next year to the SFC. In order to get student fees for the cheaper pass, Newberg said Soto would have had to include this proposal in his initial ASPSU budget request.
Because ASPSU will not be able to appeal their budget, Newberg said, SFC guidelines do not allow Soto to add the proposal to the group’s budget.
“Process-wise, it would be treating ASPSU different than any other group,” Newberg said.
Displeased with the decision, Soto said there are certain instances when the SFC should be flexible and hear an issue that is important to students.
“There are times when the rules do permit a little bit of flexibility,” Soto said.
Soto’s next move will be to give the proposal to the student senate. The senate does not have the power to amend the SFC budget, but it can make recommendations to change the budget that the SFC must essentially comply with. Soto said that if the senate agreed with his recommendation, there could be complications with the SFC budget.
“That could potentially be a standoff,” said Soto.
The SFC will allocate $12 million in student fees this year to the more than 100 student groups, including the Vanguard. Soto said the sum of the budget requests that student groups made to the SFC for next year is slightly more money than the $12 million that will be allocated this year.
He said he thinks the committee will make cuts to the budget requests, which would make the total fee less than this year’s fee. If that happens, he said he would like the SFC to bring the total back up to $12 million by using the extra money to subsidize the FlexPass.
Soto said that the majority of student fees are used to fund student groups, and that only a small portion of the PSU population participates in those groups.
But PSU is a commuter school, Soto said, meaning that decreasing the price of the FlexPass would help all students by giving them easier and more affordable transportation to Portland State. He also cited the new light rail project going through the PSU campus as something that many students will want to take part in, which the FlexPass would allow access to.
ASPSU has vied for a reduction in the price of the student FlexPass for years. This year’s administration has been talking with City Commissioner Sam Adams’ office to work on different ways to reduce the cost of the FlexPass.
Adams’ senior policy director on transportation, Jane Ames, who is working on this issue with ASPSU, said that her office is committed to working with the university to bring down the use of cars and lower the costs of the FlexPass for students.
While progress on the project remains in its initial phase, Ames said ASPSU has been consistent in bringing the issue to Portland and that delay in the project was due mostly to her office being busy with several projects.
“If I had to point the finger, it would be at me,” Ames said.
Ames said the project will likely see progress over the next three months.