For the past four years, Metro Transit, in conjunction with University Parking and Transportation Services, has offered an easy and convenient way for students to get around campus and the Twin Cities area. The U-Pass program is an excellent initiative and should be maintained. However, the U-pass should be affordable for students to replace.
The U-Pass program is funded through the federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Grant, a $12.50 per student transportation fee – which every full-time student pays – and the $60 per semester user fee. If a student loses his or her U-Pass, he or she must buy a new U-Pass at full price. The reason for this, according to Parking and Transportation Services, is that the University contracts Metro Transit for a certain number of U-Passes; once a U-Pass is activated it cannot be deactivated. Nevertheless, Parking and Transportation will replace a U-Pass for $25 if a student provides a police report citing a stolen U-Pass. This is unrealistic and should change. Just as students are charged a replacement fee for U Cards, so should they for the U-Pass.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently named downtown Minneapolis as one of the 17 best commuting districts in the country – even without a subway system. Students utilizing the U-pass program make up a large portion of the 160,000 people who commute downtown every day. Parking and Transportation reports that 17,204 students have purchased a U-Pass, up 19.6 percent from last year.
The goal of the U-Pass program is to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to single-occupancy vehicles and to reduce vehicle emissions. Providing U-Pass replacements at a reduced cost would not only help the program reach these goals, but it would also increase ridership. Students who normally would opt out paying another $60 per semester could justify buying a replacement U-Pass instead of driving. This is to say nothing of the students who simply cannot afford to buy another U-Pass at full price.