Last week, at the bottom of a newsletter, FAX dropped the bombshell that students at Fresno City College would no longer enjoy free rides on local bus routes.
In 2017, when the program was initiated, officials boasted that it would ease parking concerns, help students save money, and decrease emissions.
Apparently, those concerns no longer matter. According to State Center Community College District Vice Chancellor Christine Miktarian:
“Parking revenue is supposed to be paying for the maintenance of our parking lots, and so since we’ve been using bus passes, we have been not doing the maintenance we should have been for the last couple years,” saysABC 30
But curiously, $18.5 million is readily available for a brand new parking garage, as proclaimed just this past December by the district board:
Of course the district loves to cite their green credentials, but only when it comes to driving. Take this recent news blast about electric vehicle charging and solar panels on parking lots:
Construction of the multi-campus solar project is near completion. Electric vehicle charging stations have been installed at Fresno City College, Reedley College, Clovis Community College, and Madera Community College Center and will be turned on once the solar systems are operational.
The purchase power agreement will enable the district to pay a fixed energy rate over a 20-year period and thereby avoid anticipated escalation of utility rates. Not only will this project save the district approximately $18 million over the next 20 years, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 171 vehicles off the road each year, or saving more than 912,696 gallons of gas.SSCCD
Oddly enough, neither the announcement of the new parking garage nor the discontinuation of the bus program cited fun facts about how the decisions will reflect on greenhouse gas emissions. Curious indeed.
Parking shortages have been a concern at Fresno City for decades. There are many ways to address that, which include prioritizing public transit, improving bicycle and pedestrian links, and pricing parking properly. Unfortunately, Fresno City hasn’t done any of that.
A rail line, used by Amtrak, cuts through the heart of the campus, but a rail station has never been proposed. Protected bicycle lanes have been talked about, but never implemented. As for pricing, parking costs just $30 a semester, so it’s no surprise that more passes are sold than they have the capacity for.
One reason to keep parking costs low is to help out the many students who are low-income. According to College Simply, 66% of the student body are considered low-income, which is significant. That being said, a free bus pass probably does more to help low income students than discounted parking.
If the district is asked why they have money for a garage but not bus passes, the answer will be that “they come from different funding sources.” That’s true, local taxpayers will be paying for the garage via the Measure C sales tax. The thing is, Measure C is also supposed to pay for things like bike paths and rail stations. It was their choice to request a garage, and it was their choice to raid the maintenance budget for the bus passes.
After ABC 30 published their story, Annalisa Perea started a tweet thread saying that the issue would be addressed (click for additional tweets)
Looking at her background, I believe that Ms. Perea is genuine about looking to solve this:
Annalisa grew up in southeast Fresno, attended public schools, and began her college career at Fresno City College, where she achieved her general education requirements prior to transferring to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in City and Regional Planning and came back to Fresno upon graduation to work in the private sector as a City Planner.About Annalisa
That being said, it’s a bad look that the board is only “exploring solutions” after media attention and online outrage.
Transportation can be an enormous barrier to people trying to attend community college. These kinds of transportation decisions cannot be an afterthought. I would bet good money that the administration folks who signed off on this all drive to work – and plan on enjoying their new garage. Maybe one day they should ride the bus (or a bicycle!) and learn more about the students they are supposed to work for.
(Title image of Fresno City Library By Bobak Ha’Eri – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7469613)