Temple Student Government’s Sustainability Task Force hopes to open negotiations with SEPTA about a new student TrailPass program, which would offer an unlimited pass on Regional Rail for the academic year to Temple students at a steeply discounted rate.
The TrailPass program is a joint effort between TSG and the Office of Sustainability.
According to a survey published by TSG, the passes would be valid during the academic year and winter break, but not during the summer. The survey calls for 11,000 responses.
“We’re hoping that by the end of February we’ll have 11,000, but we’re okay with 6,000 to 7,000,” said Aaron Weckstein, TSG’s director of grounds and sustainability. “At the end of February, I’m meeting with the Office of Sustainability, a couple of administrators, including someone from the president’s office, and someone from SEPTA … to see where we are.”
“From there we’ll see if SEPTA makes an offer to us and then we’ll continue the negotiations,” he added.
The University Pass offered by the Bursar’s Office is an unlimited SEPTA TrailPass that covers the duration of the academic year for $689.70. TSG hopes to use the TrailPass program to lower the price to $350 for the academic year.
TSG arrived at that price based on a survey done by the Office of Sustainability to find how much the average commuter student spends per year in 2016, Weckstein said.
TSG is hoping that the Trailpass will replace the University Pass Program.
“We just need the provost to be on board with this,” Weckstein said. “They’re a little bit concerned about the amount of risk that the university will take on. We would buy a certain number of TrailPasses in bulk like we do with the Bursar’s passes but we would buy over our ridership levels. That way, if things don’t go as planned, we take on the risk so we have the extra passes.”
TSG consulted the Office of Sustainability and the Youth Advisory Council, SEPTA’s outreach organization to riders age 14 to 22, about the language of the survey.
“We are interested from a sustainability perspective, from a student services perspective to explore what a university pass program could look like here at Temple and in the broader city,” Grady said. “I think the challenge is that we’re still waiting to hear what SEPTA’s proposal is, like a formal proposal.”
“That meeting at the end of February is going to tell us a lot because we don’t know what SEPTA is coming to the table with,” Weckstein said. “Because of equity issues, we don’t get to learn about the numbers specifically in terms of what they offer. It sounds like SEPTA is more willing than it ever has been to work with us.”
A SEPTA spokesperson said they could not comment on the TrailPass negotiations at the time.
“You have to take a certain amount of risk off of SEPTA in order for them to negotiate,” Weckstein added.
Both TSG and the Office of Sustainability have heard student opinions through surveys and in-person meetings.
“We did a couple town-hall meetings where people were able to give us feedback on their top issues and a SEPTA pass came and was by far the most voted and we took it on as an issue,” Weckstein said.
“We’re really trying to advocate for a TrailPass program that works for students and that is equitable and fair but also provides them with access to SEPTA services,” Grady said. “We will continue to have conversations to try to make sure that the pass program would work for Temple students.”
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