U-Pass receives Governor’s Award

Monica LaBelle

If Valerie Reichel didn’t have a U-Pass, she would have to live on campus or find a ride with friends to get to school.

The U-Pass, a discount metro bus pass for University students, received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Waste and Pollution Prevention earlier this month.

Reichel is one of the 30 percent of students at the University with a U-Pass. The sophomore journalism student uses Metro Transit to commute to class from her home in south Maplewood.

Eleven judges representing varied economic sectors chose the U-Pass for its innovation, ability to serve as a model, environmental impact, employee commitment and economic efficiency. Twenty-four applicants vied for the award, and the U-Pass was among four winners.

“Financially, it’s saving students a lot of money,” said Bob Baker, the director of parking services at the University.

The $50 per semester pass was first offered in the fall of 2000. Since then, the number of users has increased by 103 percent to 12,852 this semester, according to ridership reports from Metro Transit and student surveys conducted by the University.

The U-Pass has reduced carbon monoxide emissions by 865 kilograms daily, according to a Parking and Transportation Services study.

Kelly Wilson, an environmental policy analyst with the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, said the judges liked the U-Pass’ potential to change students’ attitudes toward transportation.

Micala Gordon, a third-year history major who lives in Prospect Park and plans to move to the Powderhorn neighborhood, said tight, expensive parking keeps her from driving to campus. She uses her car to run errands and visit her home in Nebraska.

“I’d bike if I didn’t have the U-Pass, but it’s cold,” Gordon said.

The U-Pass is offered through Parking and Transportation Services in partnership with the Metropolitan Council and Metro Transit.

Parking and Transportation Services completed a contract with Metro Transit to continue the program for the next two years. The contract was approved last week by the Metropolitan Council.

Baker said he expects the program to last for more than two years.

“We think that the program is going to promote itself Ö we really don’t foresee any big changes,” Baker said.


Monica Labelle covers environment and transportation and welcomes comments at [email protected]