UC Launches Transit Pass Program

Tuesday July 20, 2004

UC Berkeley announced Monday the start of a new transit pass program designed to lure its 8,000 employees out of their cars and on to AC Transit buses. 

Starting in October, for a two year trial run, UC will offer its employees unlimited AC Transit passes for $20 a month—a $70 discount over standard monthly passes that include transbay service. The university will pay AC Transit $50 a month for every pass. 

UC, which has had the plan in the works for several years, has faced mounting pressure from employees and city residents to offer its workers an incentive to take public transportation and reduce congestion on city streets. 

Currently a UC parking pass costs between $81.50 and $113 a month, comparable to an AC transit monthly pass. 

Forty-nine percent of university employees commute to work by some method other than driving alone, one of the best commute rates among Bay Area employers, according to the university. 

“We’re dedicated to doing all we can, in partnership with local transportation systems, to promote affordable transit use and other alternatives for employees who currently drive alone work, said Vice Chancellor Steve Lustig in a prepared statement. 

Already UC students receive subsidized bus passes paid for by $60 in student fees. The city’s 1,200 employees receive a free bus pass subsidized by entirely by the city. 

Unlike those two programs, the new UC employee transit pass, named the Bear Pass, will require recipients to request the pass, instead of receiving it free of charge. The $20-a-month fee will be deducted directly from employees’ pre-tax pay checks.  

Rob Wrenn, the chair of the city’s Transportation Commission, called the plan a good first step, but feared that by instituting a higher than average fee and requiring employees to take the initiative to sign up for the plan, UC might not achieve maximum results.  

“Generally these programs work best when everybody gets a pass,” he said. 

UC is budgeting for 1,500 of its 8,000 employees to sign up for a pass, said Jesse Arreguin, the student representative to the Faculty Parking committee. Arreguin feared that would not be enough participants to sustain the program. 

AC Transit Communications Director Jamie Levin, however, predicted the Bear Pass would pay big dividends. “We’re very optimistic that this will prove successful,” he said in a press release. “Anything we can do working in partnership with the university and Berkeley to get more people on public transit is a win-win for everyone.”