De Anza College students claim victory in Eco-Pass battle

Eco-Pass fare increase capped at $20 for four years at all community colleges


Kunal Mehta

De Anza students fill up the VTA board meeting room with posters and prepared speeches to lobby against raising the Eco-Pass fee to $40.

The VTA board voted to raise the community college Eco-Pass fee to only $20 and keep it at that price for the next four years, following months of lobbying by De Anza College student activists. VTA’s original proposal was to raise the fee up to $40 in chunks of $5 per year.

Over 30 students attended the meeting, many carrying signs protesting the fee increase, and nearly 20 spoke during the public comment period.

“It sets the right precedent. It’s a huge symbolic gesture, and it essentially says that ‘we’re not for price increases for students’,” Neil McClintick, 20, political science major, said.

Patrick Ahrens, advisor to California Assemblymember Evan Low and De Anza alumnus, assisted the students with organizing and working with board members, and noted how the students’ efforts benefitted all community colleges.

“You did a great job in terms of being a regional leader… saying ‘we want equity’, which is what we aspired for,” Ahrens said when speaking to students after the meeting. “I’m really proud of you guys. You guys did a great job.”

Mission-West Valley currently pays $18 a year and will only see a $2 increase for the next four years.

Students lobbied VTA board members in the month prior to the meeting with phone banks organized by the De Anza Political Revolution club.

“We received many phone calls and emails regarding the increase to the Eco Pass,” VTA board member Johnny Khamis said at the beginning of the discussion regarding the Eco Pass.

De Anza students created a counter-proposal that asked for a direct increase of $20 and would be locked in for eight years. This proposal was the basis of a motion proposed by VTA board member Ken Yeager, but his proposal only locked in the fare for four years.

“I can see from all the passion, that an increase [from $9] is really important to these people,” VTA board member Rob Rennie said.

“I don’t think the difference is material,” VTA Chief Financial Officer Raj Srinath said on the financial impact of Yeager’s motion. The motion passed with the only opposition coming from Cindy Chavez, who opposed due to the increase in fees to senior citizens.

The general counsel of the VTA noted that the four year price lock only restricts VTA staff from raising fees, and that future VTA boards could decide to increase fees.

“I am a little wary that they will bring this back in two years,” Ahrens said. He said students who are remaining at De Anza for the next year should remain vigilant in ensuring the VTA board keeps their word.

Other changes to the pass include the removal of the express bus, and an additional $3 fee for the clipper cards themselves.

“I’ve heard a lot about the future of the VTA, but I hope you understand, we are the future of this valley,” Student Trustee Elias Kamal said.

De Anza students will still need to approve of the $11 fare increase in an election.