Legislation Would Incentivize Transit Agencies to Opt-in
By Clifford Michel
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stood alongside CSI students in front of the school’s shuttle bus to announce a bill that would provide discounts for college students who use public transit to get to their campus.
The proposed piece of legislation will provide additional federal funding to transit agencies that offers college students a discount of at least 25 percent in order to offset the costs of providing the students with reduced fees.
“We all know today’s college students have been saddled with huge financial burdens. College is a necessity, or it’s almost a necessity, and yet it’s priced as a luxury,” Schumer said on October 15. “The point of this legislation is to give college students and their families some relief.”
MTA MetroCards currently cost $116.50 for an unlimited monthly, which is a common purchase for college commuters. That’s $1,398.50 if purchased every month. If the UTRIP bill is passed and the MTA opted into the program, that would decrease to at least $93.20 a month and $1,118.40 a year
President Fritz lent his support to the measure, saying that the bill would greatly support the population of CSI students—more than half—that use public transportation to get to CSI.
“The issues relating to transportation are on the forefront of the minds of Staten Islanders,” said CSI President William J. Fritz. “And, clearly, we are an access institution; many of our students come from first generation, low-income families. It may not seem like a lot, but [the discount] would make a real difference to our students.”
Students who don’t drive or live on campus typically take the s93, s62, or a myriad of other options before getting on board the Staten Island Ferry before transferring to CSI’s shuttle bus.
Students say that paying for transit leaves little left in their pockets for other expenditures and said any financial support at all would be welcomed.
“After I buy my monthly MetroCard, I’m so strapped for cash it’s not even funny. I start thinking ‘do I really need to buy food today?’ Which is ridiculous,” said Ryan Durnado, a junior political science major. “Students shouldn’t have to make that choice.”
Schumer’s office said that at least $250 million would be provided for the piece of legislation.
Schumer said that the cost of commuting is often overlooked when reviewing the costs of college.
“There are other ways we can help. One of those ways is through commuting,” said Schumer, holding up a MetroCard. “We here in New York are commuters,” he said. “And many people take a bus or train to get to college—it’s part of the cost just like textbooks—and it’s very expensive.”
Adam Lisberg, an MTA spokesman, told the Staten Island Advance that the agency doesn’t comment on pending pieces of legislation and referenced the expenditures the agency faces by giving students, senior citizens, and disabled persons discounts already—$172 million, $95 million, and $272 million respectively.
“The MTA has aggressively cut more than $1 billion in annual spending from our budget in order to keep fare and toll increases to the rate of inflation,” said Lisberg in an email, “Which remains our goal for the future.”