Muni Money, Maybe?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

It is without a doubt that paying rent in San Francisco is one of the most insane things a graduate student is asked to do. San Francisco stands out as one of the most expensive cities in the country.

Compared to the three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom, single-family entire house that you can get in Cleveland, Ohio for $1,175 a month or the three-story, two-bedroom home for a measly $750 in Augusta, Georgia, we get a half-bedroom with a toilet for a comfy $1,500, no utilities included. Not to mention the parking spots that cost $350 a month!

Given all of this, it is no surprise that UCSF is probably one of the few schools that I know where students actually want to move into student housing. At the beginning of each academic year, we all put our ballots into a lottery in hopes of winning the grand prize of $1,000 per month rent.

When the majority of us learn the unfortunate news that all the spots are taken, we either frantically look for affordable gems at a reasonable proximity to school, or go to the ends of the Bay to get an affordable deal on rent. We are left in a crux between paying high prices to stay close to school or losing time and money by living further away.

Though I don’t have the exact data on the number of students that live far enough away from campus that they need public transportation (please tell me if you do), just watching the hoards of exhausted students walking out of the Muni stop each morning makes me think that there is a considerable amount.

If that’s the case, and UCSF cannot guarantee housing for the majority of its students, I feel the urge to ask for some compensation by at least easing our commute bill. A regular Muni monthly pass costs $70 a month and, assuming that you go to school throughout the year, that alone costs about the rent to get a two-story house in Alabama for a month and a half ($840).

Some schools in the Bay have already utilized this as part of their tuition. At UC Berkeley, students pay a very small fee ($50, I believe) per semester for access to unlimited AC Transit Bus rides. With the only inconvenience of buying a new bus pass sticker every semester, it makes for going to and from school, as well as having a life outside of school, so much easier.

Given the behemoth of a contribution that our school has given to the city, and especially the large population of students living outside of school grounds, I don’t know why there isn’t a deal with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) already.

With a reasonable reduction, students would feel less of the commuting burden and might even venture outside of the construction box of a school they spend their lives in!

A reduced fee would provide students with enough money to feed themselves three rice bowls from Moffit a month! (I literally cannot believe that each bowl costs $9… a different story for a different time.)

But on the brighter side…

By 2019 there will be a lucky few who get to pay a San Francisco-reasonable rent, and live on-campus. Administrators do seem to acknowledge the issue of housing and are planning to construct new housing on the top floors of UC Hall by 2019. The plague of our constantly growing construction does have greater meaning!

The lottery drawings for that first year of opening will definitely be the most-watched event of the entire year. Perhaps until then... three years of reduced public transportation fees, maybe?