First published in the Sept. 3 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Ann Ransford, the president of the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees, illustrated it simply on Wednesday.
She speculated that she might take the bus home from the event on campus, but which bus line worked best for her was the question — one that certainly factors into the equation for GCC students who take public transit to class.
“Should I choose the Metro, or should I choose the Beeline? At Glendale College, we’re all about options,” she told the audience Wednesday, which had gathered that morning to a scene of buses from both lines. “We award more than 2,000 degrees and certificates each year in multiple disciplines. We recognize that each student is on their own unique journey, that it’s not what they choose to study but how they choose to study. The pandemic has been a reminder that we need to make sure our students have options that fit their individual needs.”
Thanks to a collaborative effort between GCC and Los Angeles Metro, students can now spend more time figuring out the right route and less time figuring out boarding and transfer fees. The GoPass, now freely available to all GCC students enrolled in even just one credit with the college, will allow holders free use of the Glendale Beeline, all Metro bus and rail lines and a litany of other local transit options.
“At GCC, we are committed to providing access to higher education to everyone as they pursue their career path, and now transportation will not be a barrier to that,” said GCC President and Superintendent Ryan Cornner. “Simply put, if you want to reach your educational goals, GCC is the bridge to get you there, and these buses are how to get to that bridge.”
The passes come in the nick of time for the current school year.
“This week, as we begin a new school year, more students are reengaging, reconnecting and reenergizing their college experience,” Ransford said. “You can feel the buzz on campus. The GCC GoPass is a significant tool to help our students get to campus and take part in a vibrant, in-person learning environment.
“It’s going to open a whole new world for our students,” she added, “including those taking online classes.”
Developed by Metro and launched last year as a way of opening up transit options for students hampered by low incomes and rising living costs, GoPass now includes eight community college districts in Los Angeles County and dozens of school districts, with another 10 in the process of joining. Participating agencies cost-share with Metro to fund the initiative.
Students in participating school districts and college campuses used public transit nearly 5.6 million times in the first year of the program, according to Metro, with more than 90% occurring Monday through Friday with peak times at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Natalie Dawoodi, president of the Associated Students of GCC and the student member of the GCC Board of Trustees, said her fellow students are “very lucky” to have this opportunity and hoped the broader program would encourage other state agencies to develop similar support networks for their students.
“GoPass will help bring our students together as we work to increase our student engagement on campus,” Dawoodi said. “It encourages students to want to come back to an in-person learning environment without having to worry about the financial struggles that come with commuting.
“When I chose to come to Glendale College, I knew it was the right decision,” she added. “It’s programs like this that make me know I was right in my decision.”
Ara Najarian, a longtime Glendale councilman who is currently chair of the Metro Board of Directors, hailed the initiative as “one of the most transformative efforts” to improve access to education. He described Wednesday as a convergence of roles for him, as he previously served on the GCC Board of Trustees.
“I know that you all are working hard on your education at this fine institution of higher learning,” he said. “At Metro, we’re also working hard to make it easier for you to get your education by enabling you to get to campus — or anywhere else — on Metro or the other participating transit providers, like the Beeline.”
In addition to Metro options and the Beeline, GoPass holders also have free use of Pasadena Transit, L.A. County Shuttles, LADOT Dash, City of Commerce Transportation, Culver CityBus, Foothill Transit, GTrans, Long Beach Transit, Montebello Bus, Norwalk Transit, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and Torrance Transit.
Mayor Ardy Kassakhian, speaking on Wednesday, called the program a win-win for multiple reasons, including for its hopeful effect of removing vehicles from the road. The ease it brings to a student — and their wallets — should not be understated, he added, as he recalled once being pulled over by police while in college and immediately worrying that a ticket would nuke his minuscule savings otherwise meant for textbooks.
“We know how important every last dollar is to these students. I remember how important it was to me,” he said. “That is the calculation students make when they take the risk of having to have a car, pay for the insurance, buy gas and bring themselves to that place which is going to help them advance in their lives. If we can remove a barrier by providing them free access to public transportation, we are helping give them a leg up.”