U-Pass usage increases

The number of times students have used their U-Passes to ride Metro Transit buses and the light rail has increased almost 40 percent this year, and about 80 percent in the month of September alone. Bob Gibbons, spokesman for Metro Transit, said through the first nine months of last year, students took 1.9 million rides using a U-Pass. During the same time span this year, students took 2.6 million rides, almost a 40 percent increase. The numbers have risen even more since the new semester started. In the month of September alone, there were about 440,000 U-Pass rides taken, about an 80 percent increase from the number of rides last September, Gibbons said. U-Pass sales also increased slightly, as it has the past three years, even with a $20 price hike from last year. The increase in fuel and labor costs over the summer caused the price of the U-Pass to go from $64 to $84. âÄúAnytime you increase the price on something, you expect it to sell less, but in fact it has remained steady,âÄù Gibbons said. According to the UniversityâÄôs Parking and Transportation Services, 21,572 U-Passes were sold this fall, up slightly from 20,442 last fall semester. Gibbons said public transportation makes sense at the University for many reasons, including limited and expensive parking, congestion and the cost of owning a vehicle. According to AAA estimates from April, it cost $8,121 to own and operate a new passenger car driven 15,000 miles per year. This equates to about $677 a month. The U-Pass costs about $21 per month. Mary Sienko, spokeswoman for the UniversityâÄôs Parking and Transportation Services, said people often donâÄôt factor in maintenance and insurance costs when they calculate the price of owning a vehicle. âÄúThat can actually add up pretty substantially,âÄù Sienko said. She said there could be several reasons students are using their U-Passes more frequently, such as the high price of gas when the semester began and the loss of parking spaces. The Huron Boulevard Parking Complex was lost to the construction of TCF Bank Stadium, and the development of other campus buildings is in the works, she said. âÄúThis takes away land that we could possibly put flat surface lots on or will take away lots that were already there,âÄù she said. âÄúSo itâÄôs kind of a double-edged sword.âÄù Sienko said she sees students using the bus for more than just getting around campus this semester. âÄúWhatâÄôs happening is people are using them for extra things, like shopping or going to an interview,âÄù she said. âÄúI think [the U-Pass] will continue to maintain itself and grow a bit every year as students realize that this is a good deal.âÄù Jill Stein, a senior studying Spanish, said the U-Pass is a cheap and effective way to get around campus. âÄúI was disappointed when the price went up, but I could understand with gas prices and the economy,âÄù she said. Stein said she uses her U-Pass more this year than she did last year because she works off campus. âÄúItâÄôs a lot cheaper than owning a vehicle and paying for gas, parking and insurance,âÄù she said.