If you’ve lived in Berkeley for more than a few years, you’ve probably taken some sort of public transportation at one point or another: a bus to get to a concert; Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) on a field trip; or you may even use Alameda County (AC) Transit to get to school every day.
Because Berkeley High School (BHS) doesn’t offer its own bus service, hundreds of students rely on public transit to get to and from school, which comes at a cost. Students taking AC Transit daily may pay more than five hundred dollars annually for their commute to school. Students with cars could drive, but BHS does not offer parking for students, and most Downtown Berkeley garages have a two hour maximum.
So what’s the solution? Although many students would prefer to drive to school, street parking around the school is costly and time constrained, and building a new parking garage isn’t economically viable due to real estate prices in Downtown Berkeley. Additionally, building a parking garage only benefits students who can afford cars. Some argue that Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) should implement a bus service for BHS, but with over 3,200 students, it would be a costly endeavour.
Thus, BHS should subsidize public transit for students who require it to get to school each day. Although BUSD already offers a free bus pass for low-income students, expanding this program to all students would not only make the school accessible to more families, but would also increase the use of cleaner forms of transit, instead of forcing thousands of families to drive individual cars. This would help alleviate traffic around BHS during drop-off and pick-up times, and would also be a huge benefit to our environment.
Even if only five hundred students started taking public transit to school instead of driving, this measure would prevent over 185 tons of carbon dioxide from entering into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to savings from recycling 7,872 bags of trash — all of this assuming the average student’s commute is five miles each way.
BUSD should also provide free BART fare to students who live within one mile of a station. By encouraging students to commute using multiple forms of transport, the district could prevent crowding on the roads. This would be a large benefit to the many students who need to wake up early to catch a bus, only to sit in traffic for 30 minutes before arriving at school.
By allowing more students to commute using public transit, BUSD could substantially reduce carbon emissions created by single families commuting, solve traffic problems in Downtown Berkeley, and create more flexibility for students. While subsidized public transportation may require negotiation with Alameda County, there are little to no downsides to making public transit more accessible to anyone and everyone.