The RHA Senate passed a resolution Tuesday night supporting a mandatory student fee that would fund unlimited Metro access for all on-campus residents.
The resolution passed 25-14 with no abstentions.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority anytime ridership resolution, which would have on-campus residents pay $130 a semester, would provide unlimited rides on the Metro and Metrobus. The Metro provides easy access to Washington, and the Metrobus provides busing services throughout the District of Columbia Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center and Virginia, according to the resolution.
Spending $130 in Metro fares would typically cover 16 round trips from the College Park Metro Station to Gallery Place during peak hours.
This resolution comes after the senate passed a resolution on Oct. 25 that stated RHA would urge the University of Maryland and its Department of Transportation Services to explore subsidizing WMATA Metro fares.
RHA President Steve Chen authored October’s resolution after hearing about American University’s University Pass from a friend. The American University program began as a pilot program for all undergraduate, graduate and law students this fall, according to their website.
“We have an opportunity to weigh in on what the relationship between our university and Washington D.C. [is],” said Chen, a senior biology and individual studies major. “We want our students to utilize the resources that are there.”
This university could see the unlimited ridership and fee proposal extend to the undergraduate and graduate student bodies if the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Government support it, said RHA Transportation Advisory Committee Chairman Matt O’Brien, who presented Tuesday’s resolution on behalf of TAC. He noted the committee will be looking to implement the fee for the 2017-18 academic year.
“The Department of Transportation Services is ready to implement it as soon as possible,” the freshman economics major said. “RHA has already approved the budgets, but the budgets haven’t been moved to the Board of Regents yet, so there’s some time.”
O’Brien said he came into the senate meeting expecting some debate on administering a mandatory fee, because all resident students might not regularly use the Metro.
“When you come to college, you pay into a socialistic society,” O’Brien said. “… If you stay in a similar place as someone else and you use 10 times as much water as that person, you don’t pay more money, [and] people aren’t upset about that. You are helping someone else ride the Metro and it’s not like you’re not getting anything out of it.”
RHA Sen. Ben Reichard expressed concerns during Tuesday’s debate about having already approved fee raises for campus residents — including a 10.3 percent parking permit increase for student residents.
“College is very expensive,” the sophomore government and politics major said. “Every fee increase should be … scrutinized to see if it’s really worthwhile.”
Sasha Galbreath, RHA vice president and senior government and politics major, said the fee “just makes sense financially,” noting that the current fee for a parking permit for one semester is more expensive than the WMATA anytime ridership fee. The parking permit fee is currently $309 in the fall and $257 for the spring semester, according to the DOTS website.