USC just ended its transit subsidy program, and the cost of my bus pass went from $30 to $100

My employer, USC, decided to eliminate their alternative commuter program, and as a result, the cost of my pass is jumping to $100 a month from roughly $30, and I can’t justify that cost every month when I look at how often I commute to campus.

To say that I am disappointed in USC would be an understatement. We are either the largest or the 2nd largest employer in Los Angeles County, and we have an obligation to help lead the region to better, more sustainable solutions for mobility. Our alternative commuting program was a success; many of us used it.

It also won a host of awards, which USC continues to display on its website.

They responded to the deluge of emails they got in response to the decision by putting up this “bureaucratic blah blah blah” page which basically says:

“The elimination of the subsidy was carefully considered and compared with other available alternatives.”

Well, ok, what are those alternatives? I’m listening. Why are those alternatives not explained? Why were those alternative programs not in place before you stopped the transit program? What does the university get out of this deal? Oh, wait, Transportation Services gets to keep $$$$ from parking rather than spend them subsidizing transit use. The USC decentralized and draconian budget process bears part of this blame: I suspect that Transportation Services leadership saw the $$$ and saved itself staff rather than continue a program that is good for the university but not in the financial interests of Transportation Services.

I do understand, but it’s still incredibly bad policy. It makes USC look like jerks, and USC doesn’t need that kind of help.

The reason for the “blah blah” is that there are no alternatives: this is just a pay cut for anybody at USC who has a disability that prevents them from driving and the university’s lowest wage workers. The real alternative is: those who can drive will do so, and those who can’t will eat the pay cut.

There is nothing about this move that makes sense for any aspect of the University other than Transportation Services. It’s bad for the employees, and it’s embarrassment for USC as a whole whose leaders have talked endlessly–and I think they are sincere–about sustainability. But it’s typical, head-in-clouds, lofty sustainability without the pragmatic follow-up that programs like this provide, largely because few people actually understand how important transit is to economic justice and sustainability.

Being a transit and sustainability expert here is frustrating, to say the least.

7 thoughts on “USC just ended its transit subsidy program, and the cost of my bus pass went from $30 to $100

  1. This is very disappointing. A university with the kind of endowment that USC has can and should do better. I spent a lot sending my daughter to USC and she got a great education, but this is not a move to be proud of. Shame on you USC.

  2. I was so pissed when I found out. They didn’t even do a good job of communicating the change to employees. Then they offered to provide 3 free parking passes per month at their UPC garage. I went this week to use one of those days, and I was told I needed to sign up first. I contacted Transportation Services and they told me I needed to be a member of the rideshare program or have to sign up for the monthly payroll deduction. All that trouble just to get 3 days free parking, no thanks! Transportation Services suck. At a time when USC has multiple construction projects at HSC and UPC, and has raised nearly 6 billion for their endowment, and this is how they treat their employees?

  3. Professor, I am glad you’re speaking out about this. However, I disagree about the usc leaders being sincere about sustainability. They are not. Just look at the VIP parking lot next to tommy Trojan and you’ll see the lot filled with gas guzzling SUVs, Porsches, v8 engined bmw, etc. USCs leadership really cheapened the meaning of the word “sustainability”.

    Back to the transit subsidy..I agree it’s sends the wrong message to the community. The $30 was already minuscule compared to other large employers in LA. USC’s daily parking rate is now $12, which is double what it was in 2005, far outpacing inflation. Further, hasn’t USC transportation benefited from the low fuel prices (for their trams)?

    • Mine was $36 when I started in the program a few years ago, then it almost doubled basically to $70 and then it jumped to $100. That’s basically a 270 percent increase. It would be one thing if they just told us old faculty types with salaries to pay full freight, but they should subsidize for our low-wage workers.

  4. As one of those low-wage workers, I’m kind of pissed that I had to stumble upon this from reddit to find it out. Too bad I can’t throw a football, huh?

  5. I found it humorous how they stated what a good job the University was doing having its employees use environmentally friendly means of getting to work, therefore they cut this program. We can however, get a parking discount when we now drive to work and park on campus and show we have a monthly bus pass. That makes perfect sense….

  6. I’m so upset about this I can hardly type. The brazen grab of the transit subsidy is hard to understand. The parking center process adds 25 minutes each way to my commute — a process they call “quick.” It’s insulting, and those affected had no voice.

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