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By Taylor Jaseph, Feb. 15, 2022

As students make their way back to campus with the return of in-person learning, Cal Poly Pomona is continuing to offer free transportation for all enrolled students on Foothill Transit through the Class Pass.

Since its launch in August 2021, students have taken well to the program. As of the middle of January, nearly 1,700 students have picked up Transit Access Passes with over 25,000 trips taken.

Danny Wu, executive director of campus planning, transportation and sustainability and co-chair of the campus’ Alternative Transportation Committee, helped institute the program to aid students.

“As long as you’re an enrolled student, you’re good to use it for any type of trip purpose,” Wu said. “It doesn’t have to be trips to or from school.”

Students can ride for free on buses like Foothill Transit’s line 289 with the Class Pass. (Nicolas Hernandez | The Poly Post)

The Alternative Transportation Committee was created to prioritize opportunities of improved modes of commuting through sustainable options, such as biking, walking and transit. It also strives to establish strategies to increase cost-effective and sustainable options for students.

The Class Pass is one plan to uphold the committee’s goal. Partnered with Foothill Transit, Cal Poly Pomona’s implementation of the Class Pass is a two-year pilot program that provides free TAP cards to all students enrolled in at least one unit. Students can use all Foothill Transit lines for free. Foothill Transit lines 190, 194, 195, 289, 480 and 486 has stops on campus along Campus Drive and Temple Avenue.

According to John Lloyd, co-chair of the committee, a professor in the History Department, and chair of the Academic Senate’s Budget Committee, this pilot program was free for CPP.

Foothill Transit normally provides universities a two-year pilot program, with only the first year free for campuses. Through the first year, Foothill Transit can track the TAP cards distributed and the use of the passes. The university is then charged a discounted rate based on the number of trips taken for the second year.

But with the pandemic shifting the campus to mainly remote learning, Wu negotiated with Foothill Transit and came to an agreement for CPP to receive a free pilot program for two years.

Throughout these two years, the usage of the Class Pass is monitored to see if it is a beneficial program for the students. Making this a permanent resource depends on how much students use the service.

“My hope is that there’s enough student support for the university to continue the program,” Lloyd said.

Wu and Lloyd consider transportation a basic need for students and one that should be easy to access. The committee wants to provide solutions to students who may not be able to afford a car, parking permit or bus pass — a main reason it worked hard to implement this free service.

“We need to be able to provide this for students who absolutely need to have transportation to get to school,” Lloyd said.

Another reason to institute the Class Pass program was to provide a more sustainable mode of transportation for students.

According to Monika Kamboures, sustainability coordinator for the campus’ Office of Sustainably and staff member for the Alternative Transportation Committee, transportation is one of the two largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions by CPP, with the other being energy.

According to the Office of Sustainability’s Transportation Dashboard, students driving alone to campus made up 67% of students’ transportation modes in the 2017-2018 academic year — the latest year for which data are available. Usage of single occupancy vehicles has increased during the pandemic as driving alone was the safer option.

By providing alternative modes of transportation with incentives — such as the free Class Pass and creation of safer bike lanes to promote biking — the university hopes to reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.

“When we think about our efforts in reducing our emissions and affecting climate change, transportation is one of those key areas we need to focus on,” Kamboures said. “That’s why things like the Class Pass and alternative transportation modes are so important.”

With the Class Pass, students can choose the environmentally friendly option without an expense to them. Mass transit also benefits students by avoiding traffic and the hassle of finding a parking space.

The spring semester being 70% in-person has Wu hopeful of seeing an increase in users of the Class Pass. Even with the Class Pass still in the pilot phase, the committee continues to work on plans to create easier mobility to and from campus.

According to Wu, the Class Pass pilot program is only one of other collaborations between the university and Foothill Transit.

One strategy connected to the Class Pass is to reroute the popular Foothill Transit Silver Streak line to stop at CPP. The Silver Streak is the most used line by CPP students because it goes into downtown Los Angeles. The line also operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while the seven bus lines connected to CPP don’t.

And a long-term plan being considered by the committee is building a mobility hub on campus. This would be a multimodal center and would make campus more pedestrian friendly. The mobility hub would be a focal point of transit lines and other modes of transportation, such as bikes. It will make arriving on campus easier for students, faculty and staff while encouraging the use of more sustainable options.

“I think this is a really great opportunity for students to be able to feel empowered to do something that makes an impact on the environment,” Kamboures said.

The Class Pass is available at the Games Room desk in the Bronco Student Center.

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