U-Pass earns full approval from council

by Fabiana Torreao

University officials will announce today the approval of two bus programs intended to give students, faculty and staff members unlimited rides on city buses for a discounted user fee.
The Metropolitan Council, a seven-county council that governs the Twin Cities’ public transit system among other services, approved the U-Pass and Metropass on Wednesday. University officials approved the programs earlier this month.
“The University’s partnership with Metro Transit will benefit the entire metropolitan community, and eventually, the entire state,” said University President Mark Yudof in a released statement.
The U-Pass program gives students unlimited rides for a $55 fee per semester — $5 charged to every enrolled student and $50 to purchase the pass. Further funding for the program comes from a two-year, $5.5 million federal grant.
The program is intended to also benefit the University and community by reducing parking demand, highway congestion and air pollution.
“U-Pass and Metropass programs have proven to be highly successful at other colleges and universities across the nation,” said Cari Hatcher from Parking and Transportation Services.
The University will begin working with Metro Transit on how to improve bus services to campus, such as adding more capacity to existing routes and developing new routes, Hatcher said.
Currently, an estimated 80,000 people come to campus and 7,000 of those ride the bus to and from the University on the 33 Metro Transit routes that serve the community.
The University will need to increase bus ridership by 20 percent for each year that it receives the federal grant, serving nearly 10,000 people.
“Three thousand people in buses means 3,000 people out of cars, which means less congestion and better air quality,” Hatcher said.
Hatcher said the University will now start an extensive marketing program to promote the bus programs.
While the U-Pass will cost students $50 per semester, the Metropass will cost faculty and staff members $35 per month.
Other universities, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Iowa and Purdue University have similar bus programs.
“Today’s U-Pass/Metropass announcement reflects a growing partnership between the University and the Metropolitan Council to help deal with impacts of traffic congestion and tight parking,” said Ted Mondale, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, in a press release.

Fabiana Torreao covers St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]