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Free bus rides for college students on next Council agenda
Turlock Transit
If approved, bus rides for college students, faculty and staff could be free starting Aug. 22.

The Turlock City Council will consider expanding free bus passes to include college students, faculty and staff, among other changes to Turlock Transit’s fare structure at their next meeting.

In October 2021, the Council-approved new fare structure was enacted that included free fixed route fares for youth ages 18 years old or younger.  If approved, a new category for free fixed route fares would be added effective Aug. 22, 2022 for college and university students, faculty and staff.

The City had previously partnered with Stanislaus State for the University Pass Transit Funding Agreement with Associated Students, Inc. In May 2021, this agreement was terminated in recognition of major reductions to student ridership demand associated with pandemic-related campus closures. 

Following the termination of the University Pass agreement, staff from the City’s Transit Division, ASI and regional transit providers began early discussions regarding a regional transit funding agreement that would expand access to CSUS faculty and students, while providing access to all transit providers equally.

City staff are recommending the fare structure change for a variety of reasons including:

·         Increase ridership and utilization of transit, particularly after ridership losses during the pandemic;

·         Target demographic is generally more receptive to greater utilization of transit;

·         Greater utilization of transit helps reduce the negative stigma associated with transit and better utilizes deployed resources;

·         Reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality through a reduction in single passenger automobile trips;

·         Further promoting the relationship and partnership between the City and CSUS; and

·         Recognizing repeated and increasing attempts by state legislators to provide free or reduce transit services to college-age individuals, including pending legislation (AB 1919) that would require transit agencies to provide free fares for individuals 25 years of age or younger.

If approved, City transit staff will notify regional transit stakeholders, such as the Stanislaus Regional Transit Authority (StanRTA), Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County, Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG), and MOVE Stanislaus, as well as potential beneficiaries of the change, including CSUS and Modesto Junior College.  City transit staff would also incorporate this change into pending revisions to the City’s Rider Guide, maps, and website. 

Other Turlock Transit changes being considered on Tuesday include:

—                   Restoring ADA paratransit fares with the establishment of dedicated mode;

—                  Reaffirming fares for the Amtrak Shuttle pilot project;

—                  Establishing fares for the expanded On-Demand mode; and

—                  Authorizing specific City staff to reduce or eliminate fares temporarily for promotional or emergency purposes.

The City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room at City Hall, 156 S. Broadway. Meetings are open to the public.