Student Association leaders began lobbying for a reduced Metro fare for D.C. area students almost a year ago, but the project is now in the hands of the University and Metro officials and progress has come to a standstill – though administrators remain optimistic.
Michael Akin, executive director of international, government and community affairs, said the University has come up with a plan to make the discount a reality, though he added that the University has not had talks with Metro recently to discuss finances.
“We had these discussions in the fall, and then between the holidays, the inauguration and the budget crisis all over the city, including Metro, there has been a downturn in talks,” said Akin, who is now tasked with overseeing the project.
Now that the inauguration is over, Akin said he looks forward to restarting the talks with Metro officials.
Akin said that in order for a student discount to come to fruition, Metro would calculate a fee for unlimited use and the University would determine how much of that fee students would bear. The University would then agree to fund the remaining cost or partner with a corporation that would provide the funding.
“This ‘discount’ is really talk about a subsidy,” Akin said.
He added, “The unlimited ride model is the easiest to move forward with. The next step is to sit down with Metro and figure out what it would cost specifically and how we would transfer the money.”
Metro officials said they would support an unlimited farecard if it did not cost the organization any money.
“Basically we’re open to there being a card for university students, however it would have to be at no cost to Metro,” said Candace Smith, a spokeswoman for Metro. “It would have to be something paid for by the school or students.”
Though there are other options to create a student Metro discount, Akin said the unlimited ride model would best fit the GW student lifestyle.
“We needed to find out what model would fit best,” Akin said. “Given that we are in the heart of D.C. and have two stops right here on campus, our students will use the Metro more often than some at other schools.”
Akin said he believes the project is worth pursuing because of benefits that would resonate throughout the Foggy Bottom community, including improved community relations by reducing the number of cars on campus and potentially reducing carbon emissions.
He added that lower Metro fees for students could be used as a recruitment tool to entice prospective students.
While the project originally began as a joint effort between many D.C. area universities, Sally Kram, director of government and public affairs at the Consortium of Washington Universities, said GW administrators are currently fighting for a reduced fare on their own.
“We’ve heard of some institutions working separately, and we laud that,” Kram said.
Despite a stall in the project’s progress, Akin credits much of the initiative’s progress to SA Executive Vice President Kyle Boyer, who he said brought the idea to the forefront. Although Boyer said he has not been very involved recently, he remains optimistic.
Boyer said, “If we can get one more meeting on GW’s campus between Metro officials and the GW principals, I think maybe something could happen.”