By Jubenal Aguilar
Dallas County Community College District has discontinued its student discount program with Dallas Area Rapid Transit after three semesters. The end of this partnership leaves many Brookhaven College students to find new ways to afford DART passes. Full-time students can purchase individual reduced passes from DART. Part-time students no longer have an option to purchase reduced passes. The previous program was not popular at all colleges; Browning said some schools did better than others. Martin said Brookhaven sold all the passes it purchased for the last two semesters and even had a waiting list at one point.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the contract between DCCCD and DART was that it excluded students from benefiting from DART’s own College/ Trade School reduced passes. Martin said DART has always had its own discount available so full-time undergraduate students can buy a pass at a reduced price directly from DART. Willadean Sullivan Martin, director of business at Brookhaven, said there were many problems with the program. Across the district, students and parents who did not want to or could not afford to pay the cost of the pass up front complained. She said one problem was that it required advance payment. David A. Browning, vice president of business and administrative services at El Centro College, said the program began when DART approached DCCCD to offer a discount to students. However, DCCCD negotiated with DART to extend the offer to any student in the district enrolled in at least three credit hours, or 48 contact hours for continuing education students.
Browning said this petition resulted in a requirement for a student to pay for the full semester, or the equivalent of five reduced monthly passes, at once. All DCCCD schools offered these semester passes except El Centro, and they were approved by the Board of Trustees during a regular meeting Dec. 4, 2012. El Centro was excluded from the agreement as it already offers the DART-Free Program, which has offered a free pass to all of its students enrolled in six credit hours in the fall and spring semesters or three in the winter and summer terms since Fall 1997 semester. This is because the downtown Dallas campus does not provide student parking.
There lies the difference between the El Centro’s DART program and the rest of DCCCD’s. The latter was offered to any full-time student enrolled in the other colleges in the district for $200 for a five-month regional pass. That comes out to $40 per month, or a savings of up to 75 percent over the cost of a regular regional pass.
Many students benefited from the program, including Mwape Chintankwa, a Brookhaven student residing in Lewisville – out of DART’s service area. In order to attend classes, Chintankwa must now use a regional pass to use DART’s and Denton County Transportation Authority’s services. For her, a regular regional monthly pass would cost $160, or about $640 each semester. Students who live within DART’s service area also saw savings of half the cost of a regular pass with the program.
Jairoalan Perez-Llanes, a student from Farmers Branch, said he used to buy local monthly passes at $80 each, an expenditure of $320 for four months. However, the price of a reduced day pass is $2.50, which is $7.50 less than a non-reduced regional day pass, which would only cost $25 more per month compared to the passes by DCCCD, and only if the student rode the buss every day of the month. Another problem was that as the semester dragged on, the value of the pass diminished, and at some point it was no longer cost effective. For that reason, Martin said, there was a push to sell them early.
“DART wouldn’t sell the individual passes once we started the semester pass,” Martin said. She said schools cannot be involved in two types of payment. The colleges must choose one or the other.
“By popular demand from student councils across all the colleges, we did away with our contract, freeing students to buy the [$40] a month pass directly from DART,” Browning said. With the end of the contract, DCCCD is no longer a participant of the DART Higher Education Pass Program. According to DART’s website, a qualifying student “must be a full-time, undergraduate student attending classes at a college, university, trade school or technical school physically located within the DART Service Area.”
The student must also obtain a DART Reduced College/Trade School Student ID. The ID card can be purchased at the DART Store located in downtown Dallas at 1401 Pacific Ave. The store is located at Akard Station and is accessible via any light rail line headed toward downtown Dallas.
To purchase, students must print the DART Reduced College/Trade School Student ID application form from DART’s website and take it to advising for enrollment verification. They may then take the form, along with a $2 fee for the ID card, to the DART Store. The ID card allows a student to purchase a reduced pass of any type from DART at their lowest rates. Both Browning and Martin said they hope that in the near future, other partnerships between DCCCD and DART will be created for the greater benefit of its student riders. “I think it was a good premise, a good idea,” Martin said. “Maybe we can tweak it so that it’s really beneficial to a lot more students. But we thought we’d try it, we gave it a try and it worked for some people. But we did have resistance.”