Donald Shoup and other researchers at UCLA have investigated the performance of universal student transit pass programs (all rides are free!) at 35 universities and the research is a powerful testament to the benefits of free transit: increases in student transit ridership of 71% to 200%; a reduction in parking demand of 400 to 1,000 spaces (leaving more land and construction money for buildings with educational purposes); a $2,000/year reduction in the cost of a college education; and approval rates of 54% to 94% in student referenda about using student fees to pay for these programs at an average cost of about $30 per student per year! Metro will decide whether to study the feasibility of such a program at the board meeting Thursday!
Here's the 2-page story in the University of California journal Access. Or here's my sum-up of the Access sum-up of the big UCLA study in 2001: Unlimited Access turns student ID cards into public transit passes. It's not free transit, but it's a new way to pay for transit. Typically student registration fees are increased; in this study the average cost is found to be about $30 per student per year. (Metro's current discounted student passes are $43/month.) The result of this study of 35 universities is as stated above.
And here are the benefits of universal student transit pass programs for transit agencies:
- increases total ridership
- fills empty seats
- improves transit service
- reduces the operating cost per ride
- reduces the operating subsidy per ride
- reduces total operating subsidies.
The conclusion: "Unlimited Access is a creative, inexpensive way to take advantage of the excess capacity on public transit. Nearly three-fourths of all seats on American public transit are now empty, and transit agencies have found a group eager to buy this excess capacity — university students!"