Envisioning U-Pass changes

Why have University students been left out in the cold?

More people are choosing to take the bus these days. The steady growth of U-Pass sales is one indication of this and the unpleasantly long lines are another. Catching a Route 16 or 2 in front of Coffman is akin to waiting in line at the supermarket: A steady stream of beeps, yet there’s no movement in sight. This is one inconvenience of using traditional passes and it’s time to move on.

Several years ago Metro Transit began rolling out its Go-To card, a smart-card that allows customers to pay the transit fare by pressing the card up to a football-shaped reader. The Go-To process saves a tremendous amount of time, and also reduces the wear and tear exacted on the fare box. The Go-To program also promises to track fares more reliably and accurately because it is digital.

More or less, the system benefits everyone, and the steady growth of the program testifies to this. Currently, more than a hundred employers use the program and the University is one of them. Staff and faculty members have been using the system for just over a year now. Metro Transit has also brought the program to a few area colleges already.

It all begs the question: Why have University students been left out in the cold? The technology is here; card readers have been installed in all of the buses. Cost is not an issue; the cards are relatively inexpensive. Metro Transit is actively courting testers for the program, yet there are no immediate plans to extend this program to students.

University students make up a significant portion of bus riders in the Twin Cities, so it only makes sense to offer this service to them. Not only does the program speed up the time it takes to board the bus, the replacement fee for the pass is also significantly lower. Replacing a Go-To card costs $5, whereas replacing a U-Pass costs $62. This is an important feature for budget-minded college students.

We recognize the importance of testing the system to make sure it works in every circumstance, but when it already works for staff and faculty, why not offer this convenience to students as well?