CSULB students lead petition after TAP transit program costs rise from $5 flat-fee to $40 per semester

Cal State Long Beach students, led by Megan Honey, have started a petition against the university after it raised the price of its TAP card program—which provides students free access to Long Beach Transit buses—from a one-time fee of $5 to $40 per semester.

With individual rides on Long Beach Transit costing $1.25 and a monthly pass costing $65, the program has long provided students with easy and beyond affordable access to the transit agency’s services.

Initially, the program was entirely free, with students using their ID passes to access transit buses; it soon changed once Long Beach Transit formally moved to the TAP system in 2015. TAP cards cost $5 to activate and this fee was passed onto students; all rides after activation were free.

The cost, however, is beginning to become too burdensome, according to CSULB spokesperson Andrew Edwards.

“Cal State Long Beach has subsidized [its student transit program] since 2010 and its cost has risen to exceed $1 million annually,” Edwards said. “We are sensitive to students’ needs and the value of transit, which is why we transitioned to a discounted program in order to ensure its long-term viability. The new fees are designed to help the TAP Program become financially self-sustaining, and its revenues will not be used to pay for other aspects of Parking and Transportation Services’ operations.”

Parking and Transportation Services has expenses of $12.8 million annually, most of which is spent on building and maintaining parking structures. According to the university, more than half of the department’s expenses went to covering lot renovation and building the parking structure near Palo Verde Avenue, where a loan taken out will not be paid off until 2035.

And this would make sense: The university estimates that 80% of the department’s budget comes from parking passes charged to students who drive.

This is partially why the students who are using transit are disheartened by the rise in cost: As services for parking and those with electric vehicles increase—the department has installed over 40 EV charging stations across the campus, providing some 47,000 kilowatt hours of electricity every year for free—the focus on free transit has lessened.

“For first-year dorm residents, who are generally not allowed to have cars on campus, the TAP program is necessary for freshman to get around the city,” Honey said. “Considering the university’s notorious parking shortage and increased parking fees, an affordable TAP program is necessary to reduce congestion in and around the university.”

According to Honey, the raise in fees was done unilaterally and without notice.

The university, however, defends its actions as needed in order to have a reduced TAP program at all for students. According to Edwards, Cal State Long Beach’s new fees are “also lower than several other California State University campuses’ rates for similar transit programs.”

And he is right. San Diego State charges $154 per semester for their transit program while Cal State L.A.’s transit program ranges from $125 to $145 per semester.

The message, however, has not been formally sent to Long Beach Transit, as the information on their website still lists the U-Pass for students at $5:

According to Michael Gold of Long Beach Transit, while the transit agency of was aware of a possible fee hike, they “did not know the timing or the exact amount.”

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.