MSA mulls U-Pass expansion

The group conducted a survey to see if students would like the pass to become universal.

Sophomore Tom Wyatt-Yerka poses a question to Director of Undergraduate Student Initiatives LeeAnn Melin about the undergraduate advising process during the MSA meeting in the Molecular and Cellular Biology building on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Joe Sulik

Sophomore Tom Wyatt-Yerka poses a question to Director of Undergraduate Student Initiatives LeeAnn Melin about the undergraduate advising process during the MSA meeting in the Molecular and Cellular Biology building on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Melissa Steinken

Campus leaders are gauging interest in a plan that would provide a transportation pass to every incoming University of Minnesota student — for a slightly hiked-up student service fee.
 
The Minnesota Student Association conducted a poll last week to help determine whether to make the U-Pass — which offers University students unlimited rides on all Metro Transit bus and light rail routes — a school-wide amenity.
 
If changed, every student at the University would have the U-Pass included in their fees and would automatically be able to take advantage of the pass. It currently costs $100 each semester. 
 
“We want to make it universal so every student automatically has one,” said Alison Oosterhuis, director of the MSA Infrastructure Committee. “Students could be riding metro buses, but they don’t have U-Passes.”
 
Oosterhuis said the U-Pass’ price would be lowered, with each student paying a service fee each year that is less than $100.
 
“I think that making it more accessible to students will make [the U-Pass] more used,” said nursing junior Libby Kriz. 
 
But Kevin Blake, a chemistry sophomore, said adding the U-Pass to student services fees would be unfair to students who drive for transportation or who wouldn’t use the pass often.
 
Recently, colleges across the U.S., including the University of Chicago and University of California San Diego, have published the results of polls similar to the student association’s survey.
 
The results from the University of Chicago’s poll showed that across all schools except one, students voted yes for the change.
 
Results from the University’s poll are expected to be added up next week, Oosterhuis said.
 
“Our reaction depends on the outcome of the results,” said Jacqueline Brudlos, a spokeswoman for University Parking and Transportation Services.  
 
She said the U-Pass gives students about a 70 percent discount on bus and light rail fares.
 
As of last month, nearly 17,000 U-Passes have been sold this semester.
 
Last year, more than 40,000 were sold. U-Pass users took 4.7 million rides in 2014.
 
The proposed change to the U-Pass comes after MSA pushed through other changes, which included changes to University-area bus routes this fall, said Chase Taylor, a
student representative to the Board of Regents who worked on the changes. 
 
He said data collected from the University’s Office of Measurement 
 
Services showed that there was a service gap within the University bus routes.
 
“One of the big problems today and in the past is that there is not enough buses for the school,” Taylor said.
 
The change to the U-Pass would benefit businesses in Minneapolis by providing students access to off-campus locations through public transportation, Oosterhuis said.
 
“We are a large university, and this change would supplement our current bus systems,” she said.