Durham Tech students to get “GoPass”

Jun. 30, 2014 @ 09:39 AM

Lakia Long, a student in the dental lab technician program at Durham Technical Community College, drives herself to school each day.

But a few years back, Long, 28, relied heavily on Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) public buses to get to class.

So, Long supports a new program at Durham Tech to provide eligible students with a free bus pass that would allow them to ride area transit buses to the school’s campuses in either Durham or Orange counties.

She’s familiar with the struggle.

“Yes, I think giving students bus passes will help,” Long said Wednesday morning while on her way to class.

School officials said transportation concerns among Durham Tech students are surpassed only by their concerns about the rising cost of textbooks.

“The most critical issue for students, after the cost of textbooks, is the availability of transportation,” Durham Tech President Bill Ingram said in an interview.

 The “GoPass” will be good on DATA buses, Raleigh’s Capital Area Transit (CAT) buses, Cary’s CTRAN and Triangle Transit Authority buses or any other regional transit service.

Long said she believes the bus passes will ease the insecurity some students have about getting to school, but should come with strings attached.

“If you’re coming here and making good grades, then you deserve a pass,” Long said. “It should be earned.”

Under the program, which would begin in August, students who request it will be given a "GoPass" to use for their commute to and from college.

Tom Jaynes, Durham Tech's vice president of institutional advancement, said the GoPass program at Durham Tech will expand one operating now in which students in the school’s Gateway to College program, the former Adult High School Diploma program, receive free transit passes.

All eligible students will have the opportunity to receive free bus passes under the new “GoPass Program.”

“The major shift is that we’re going to make them available to all students,” James said.

He said the school now hands out about 50 passes to students in the Gateway to College Program and to other students who find themselves in a tight spot financially.

Kevin Bolton, 22, who is at Durham Tech working toward a GED, said the bus passes make getting to campus easier for those students who don’t have a job or a car.

“It just makes it harder,” Bolton said. “I live with my grandparents and they work, so they can’t bring me to school sometimes.”

Officials expect to give passes to about 400 students under the  program.

 Ingram said the “GoPass” program, based on current transit ridership to the campus, will cost about $60,000 the first year and could eventually cost $100,000 or more in subsequent years if ridership increases by 50 percent.

The program will be subsidized from student fees.

 “If it’s very, very popular, we may need to increase student fees to pay for it,” Ingram said. “We can do it for a year and then see how it goes after that.”

The college has committed to a three-year contract with Triangle Transit Authority, which also provides the “GoPass” to students at N.C. State and Duke University.