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HesperiaStar.com
  • TRANSPORTATION

    VVTA Ram Pass program to expire

    School to consider fee
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  • VICTORVILLE — Victor Valley Transit Authority announced that its efforts to establish a permanent program to provide free busing to Victor Valley College students have stalled, while the college’s Associated Student Body has not acted to bring a transportation fee proposal before the Board of Trustees.
    The $6 fee would require approval by the college’s Board of Trustees and if approved would be implemented as a cost to all registered students, VVTA Director of Mobility Aaron Moore said.
     After 67 percent of students, or 299 of 444, voted to approve the fee in a special election at the college in May, Moore said he had concerns as to why ASB had not yet brought the item forward.
    According to VVC spokesman Robert Sewell, the college has been in transition with hiring a new president/superintendent in July and ASB seating new officers in June. Sewell said he believes the proposal “is on target with their schedule.”
    “It had no possibility to be re-implemented until spring (semester),” Sewell said. “It has to go to the Board of Trustees and there is no Board of trustees meeting in July.”
    Sewell said he didn’t believe student fees could be implemented without “due notice to students” or before a semester had begun.
    Beginning Sept. 1, the RAM PASS cards will no longer be accepted as fare payment on VVTA buses, transportation officials said. However, regular VVTA student discount fares of $40 a month will apply, Moore said.
    Moore said the Ram Pass program was funded through a grant from the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District from July 2013 until July 2014. The grant was written in partnership with the Victor Valley College Foundation and had a stated goal of becoming a sustainable or permanent program, Moore said.
    “I feel bad for the students that were benefiting from it,” Moore said. “Now they’re going back to a monthly fee of $40.”
    According to Moore, similar transportation fees and passes have already been established by OmniTrans in San Bernardino, Orange County Transit Authority, and Riverside Transit Authority, while a program is being pursued by Foothill Transit.
    “We believe it’s a significant program,” Moore said. “That’s why we pursued developing it.”
    About 21,000 trips were made by VVC RAM PASS holders from July 2013 to July 2014, Moore said. And VVTA officials expect that discontinuing the passes will impact poorer students who are trying to better their lives by attending classes at VVC.
    “With the way our community is situated, individual students live as far as Lucerne Valley to Helendale,” said VVTA spokesman Fidel Gonzales. “It’s very difficult for them to get to class each day. They have expressed that this path is critical to pull themselves essentially out of poverty.”
    All students would be required to pay the $6 transportation fee, raising the question of whether it is equitable to require students who do not ride the bus to pay the fee. The issue has been brought up by ASB, Moore said. He believes “student equity” can be argued in a number of ways.   “This is equity in access to educational programs,” Moore said.
    Brooke Self may be reached at 760-951-6232 or BSelf@VVDailyPress.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @BrookeSelf or @DPEduNews.
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