Universal transit card deal reached by Augsburg, Metro Transit

Kristian Evans, Senior News Editor

Augsburg Day Student Government (ADSG) has voted to provide universal Metro Transit passes to all Augsburg day students beginning  fall semester of 2019. The move will increase the day student Green Fee, which day students pay every semester, from $15 to $20. The increase will pay for the College Passes while still allowing for money to be allocated toward other projects that are funded through the same revenue source.

Skye Rygh, chair of the Environmental Action Committee (EAC), said the committee began exploring options to expand access to passes based on their popularity for checkout in the library and discounted semester passes available in the bookstore. Those passes will remain in limited availability to graduate and adult undergraduate students.

While the EAC is focused on campus environmental policy, Rygh says the program has benefits beyond the goals of the committee. “It is student money that we are using not only for sustainability purposes but also for equity in transportation. That’s the part I am really excited about.”

The initial proposal passed the EAC unanimously, allowing Rygh to begin working with Metro Transit about the budgetary aspects of the deal. Eventually, the conclusion was reached that without a raise in the Green Fee, the deal would not be financially viable over three years. As a result, an increase in the fee went to the floor of ADSG for a vote. While a snowstorm caused the vote to be delayed, the measure passed unanimously through. This marks the first time the Green Fee has been raised since its introduction as the “Wind Energy Fee” in 2007.

According to a statement from Vice President of Student Affairs Ann Garvey, who has worked on student transit issues at Augsburg, Metro Transit has proposed a three-year agreement for a Universal Pass pilot program with Metro Transit and Augsburg each footing parts of the bill in addition to the fee increase. Garvey mentioned Augsburg’s role as an “anchor partner,” a neighborhood entity that aims to serve the community in its immediate area rather than customers nationally or globally, as a reason the program has been implemented. Garvey also pointed out the educational benefits of the plan. “Faculty are committed to engaging with the city with their classes, and we have a lot of co-curricular opportunities, but sometimes transportation is an issue. Students sometimes struggle to come up with funds to take the bus or light rail.”

Metro Transit has raised the possibility of a universal pass pilot program to several universities. Of those universities, Augsburg and St. Paul College are two schools that have expressed interest due to the urban locations and high levels of transit options available to both campuses. According to Rygh, the pilot program may give way to something more permanent. “Metro Transit will continue to keep track of ridership of Augsburg students. If the program seems to be worthwhile for students and ridership continues to grow over the three years, there would be talks about making this a long-term program.”

Augsburg Day Student Government approves to increase the Green Fee so that the Environmental action committee can provide students with transit cards. Photo by Jim Pfeffer.

This article was originally published in the March 1, 2019 issue. Updated March 6, 2019.

Corrections: An early version of this article identified the “College Pass” as a “Metropass.” An early version claimed Augsburg and St. Paul College were the only two schools approached. They are two of several schools who have been approached but are the only two that have responded with interest as of this update.