New Law Lowers Transit Costs for Community College Students (AP NewsWire)

(repost of a CBS5.com article via AP NewsWire)

Peralta Community College District officials held a news conference today at Laney College in Oakland to discuss a new law they estimate will save some students more than $1,200 per year in transportation costs.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1980, a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, into law on July 18, allowing school officials to set up the “AC Transit EasyPass”, a program that will give students discounts on Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District buses.

Students at the college district’s four East Bay community college campuses will have a chance to purchase the subsidized bus passes. The passes would cost $50 per semester, or $35 for low-income students.

The Peralta Community College District serves Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont. The district’s four schools are Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, Laney College and Merritt College.

Douglas MacLean, Swanson’s communications director, said that the bill was personal to the assemblyman since he was the student body president at Laney College in the early 1970s and recently had heard from several students throughout the district troubled by rising fuel costs.

“Students came in saying transportation costs were a barrier to even get to school,” MacLean said, adding that the bill “also takes more cars off the road.”

The program will start during the fall 2008 semester, which begins Aug. 20. After a pilot period where the fees will not be mandatory, the district’s schools will each vote whether or not to include the fees in their tuition.

“This bus pass program is a perfect example of Peralta’s focus on environmental justice,” district trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen said. “Struggling students can now get to school and work. We promote public transit and we help our environment. This couldn’t be a better combination.”