Starting March 26, Southern Oregon University’s Commuter Resource Center implemented a new bus pass program exclusively for students. Students can now purchase a bus pass for the entire term for only $15, plus a one-time fee of $15 for an ID card. Students can stop by the Enrollment Services Center in Britt Hall to buy the pass.
Currently, Rogue Valley Transportation District bus passes cost $56 per month. The student passes are good for an entire term, not just a month, saving students approximately $97 a term.
This pass will give students unlimited use of the RVTD bus system, including transportation between Ashland, Talent, Medford, Phoenix, Jacksonville, White City and Central Point.
Danielle Mancuso, SOU’s assistant director of student life for involvement, says she’s thrilled about this new development.
“It’s a resource that our students really need, especially because we have so many commuting students,” she says.
In the past, SOU has had similar bus rates available to students. From 1994 to 2005, students were able to ride the bus for free using their university ID card due to the collaboration between RVTD, SOU and the City of Ashland.
In 2005, the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University voted to discontinue funding toward the bus pass program because there weren’t enough students using the service, leaving students without any discounts toward public transportation between then and now.
Efforts toward reinstating a discount for students have been put on the back-burner over the last eight years, although there have been a number of proposals made toward RVTD to come up with a new contract. So far, nothing has worked.
Beginning in 2009, Mancuso and representatives from RVTD have been investigating what it would take to come to a new agreement. This collaboration has taken a lot of patience and effort from all participants over the past few years, Mancuso said.
A proposal was offered by the CRC in 2010 that would have cost an estimated $100,638 a year, paid through fees of $5.85 per student. This proposal was declined by ASSOU, however, because it was too expensive.
SOU and RVTD recently agreed on a new proposal, in which students only have to pay a fee of $1.35, making a total estimated annual cost of $23,224, assuming the average number of enrolled students is 5,000 per term.
“We pay a certain amount in and the $15 [that students choose to pay] goes directly to the RVTD,” said Mancuso. Now students who actually want to use the service will be paying for it.
Not only will this new program benefit the 54 percent of students who live outside Ashland and have to commute daily, it will also benefit those living in Ashland who simply want to get around the area more easily.
“Students who really need [the bus pass] will be happy and relieved for a resource to travel between [the Higher Education Center] and SOU,” Mancuso said. But students can also enjoy “getting out of town on the weekends” while also staying safe and having a sustainable, environmentally friendly option of travel.
Even though this new development has taken so long to come about, Mancuso commends RVTD for working so hard with the CRC for a solution to this issue.
“It’s really difficult to have transportation in such a small area, but the RVTD has been very helpful and creative with getting funds for this,” she said.
The new bus pass program will hopefully be around for students to enjoy in years to come, but for now, “We have signed a two-year contract,” says Mancuso.