Though more than 450 Temple students receive a discount for using SEPTA, many students still don’t know that such an offer exists.
“There’s basically no notification to students,” said Meghan Daly, a senior broadcast journalism major. Daly lives in Center City and commutes to Main Campus during the week by means of Regional Rail or the Broad Street Line.
Temple and the University of Pennsylvania
are the two colleges in the area that officially participate in the University Pass program, according to SEPTA’s Web site. The program offers college students discounted passes for SEPTA use. Thomas Jefferson University is not a formal member, but they do allow students to purchase passes and tokens at the same discount rate they offer to employees.
“The University Pass program is a subset
of SEPTA’s Corporate Pass Program,” Steven Silkunas, SEPTA’s director of business development, said. “SEPTA provides a 5 percent discount to businesses and organizations that match SEPTA’s discount.
“Silkunas also said that one of the requirements for discounted passes is that they need to be paid for in advance before delivery to the university. The advantage to the student or employee is that this can be done with pre-tax dollars.
Penn has seen a slight increase in the number of students who participate in the program, which offers the use of a card known as a PennPass, said Ron Ward, manager of transportation at Penn.
“So far, approximately 450 [students] signed up for this semester,” he said. “For whatever reason, the fall averages 400 to 425. For the spring, it drops off, maybe because the weather’s better. It’s nicer and students can walk.
“Ward said that Penn students have a “two month window” to purchase a PennPass, which costs $250 per semester. Sales begin approximately a month before the semester begins and end in mid-September.
Temple’s service operates in a similar way. Though it is too late for students to purchase a pass for the fall semester, sales for the spring semester start in the beginning of November.
There is a link to the official PennPass Web page on SEPTA’s Web site, though there is not one for Temple’s equivalent. Temple students said that the Temple’s pass, offered through the bursar’s office, is rarely advertised as an option for traveling by public transportation. Also,
Temple’s pass does not offer the same services as the PennPass.
Rather, students choose a pass and pay accordingly. Ward said students at Penn find the pass extremely useful.
“More people seem to be interested in it,” he said. “It is beneficial for people to use it consistently.” Ward advises students to check with SEPTA to see if it is a better deal financially.
“A lot of students use it at night to travel downtown from campus,” he said.
Some Temple students who were surprised about the university’s transportation pass seemed interested in the program.
“I cannot believe it,” said sophomore Asian Studies major Colleen Campbell after she was informed about the pass. “When I went to [the University of Pittsburgh], students rode for free on all public transportation.
When I came here, I was told no such thing. It’s really convenient when you aren’t living on campus.
“While students purchasing the cheapest University Pass through Temple save less than $30 off the regular retail price of a four-month period, some students said handiness can prove to be more important.
“Even though it may come out to nearly the same amount, you’d want to buy it through Temple because of the convenience factor,” said Daly. “I think if I had known about it, I would have definitely taken advantage of it.
“Others felt that the pass was a financial risk for students. “It’s a lot of money to pay, especially when [SEPTA]’s in such an unstable state,” said sophomore social work major Amanda Laskoskie, citing incidents such as late arrival times and last year’s union strike.Ward said the PennPass is beneficial to the university because it helps to free a number of the parking spaces that would be taken by commuters.
Students who own a PennPass are not able to retain a long-term parking space at the university.
“We discourage that because parking is very limited here now,” Ward said. Available parking spaces are usually used for employees.
Ward also said that their faculty and staff have the opportunity to purchase a ComPass on a monthly basis for a discounted rate.
Overall, many students said they believe Temple does not notify them about financial benefits such as the University Pass program.
“Sometimes there’s a lack of communication to students between the student offices at Temple and the programs they have,” Daly said.
Chris Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.