UC Berkeley News


You’re either on the bus or off the bus
And the Bear Pass will help make that decision a simple one

| 20 October 2004

Campus officials, AC Transit executives, and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates have a message for faculty and staff living in the East Bay: It’s time to get on board for the Bear Pass.

October is kickoff month for the ambitious Bear Pass program, which offers unlimited rides on AC Transit buses for just $20 a month, including Transbay service — an 80-percent discount. (Basic unlimited-use passes, without Transbay service, cost $60 a month.) And because Bear Pass fees will be deducted from employees’ paychecks on a pre-tax basis, users can look for additional savings of 12 to 46 percent, depending on their tax bracket.

“This is a great addition to the commute programs offered to Berkeley employees,” said Kira Stoll, the university’s transportation planner. About 500 campus employees are currently signed up for various transit programs, such as the $10 monthly subsidy for local bus and BART service. Existing AC Transit programs will be replaced by the Bear Pass, which is less expensive for most riders, paying for itself after just seven round trips.

Parking permits and BART-ticket subsidies aren’t affected — though Stoll said she hopes the availability of low-price bus rides will encourage drivers to get out of their cars and onto public transit.

There’s a bus stop nearby

Some 8,000 Berkeley employees are eligible for the Bear Pass program, a response to calls from university staff and city leaders to offer the kind of discounts already available to up to 27,000 students annually. About 1,000 parking-permit holders live within a quarter-mile of an AC Transit stop, and Stoll hopes that 125 of them will switch to buses at least three days a week over the course of the two-year pilot program.

The larger goal is to sign up 1,300 staff, faculty, and post-doctorates commuting to campus from East Bay communities, and thus reduce traffic congestion and ease up the demands on parking.

Stoll emphasized that employees with yearly parking permits — as well as those receiving New Directions program discounts — can hold a Bear Pass concurrently, without giving up their existing benefits. Buyers who change their mind for any reason will receive a pro-rated refund, paying only for the portion they’ve used.

To help launch the program, Mayor Bates will appear on campus next Thursday, Oct. 28, joining Steve Lustig, interim acting chancellor for business and administrative services, and Jaime Levin, director of marketing and communications for AC Transit. The kickoff event, set for 11:30 to 1:30 at the north end of Spieker Plaza (near the Recreational Sports Facility), will feature food, refreshments, and giveaways, as well as opportunities to sign up for the Bear Pass program.

Meanwhile, eligible staff and faculty can enroll by downloading a Bear Pass application from the the Parking and Transportation Department website (public-safety.berkeley.edu/p&t/ and taking it to the P&T Customer Services office at 2150 Kittredge St. For help in planning your commute, visit www.511.org or call 511.