Campus fare-free zone needed

Metro Transit should designate the East and West bank areas as fare-free zones.

by Nasser Mussa

A fare-free zone — a stretch of the new light rail that would exempt passengers from ticketing penalties within designated zones — may help University of Minnesota students commuting between the East and West banks of campus. This would be a big advantage for University students and other university communities in the area as it would improve transportation in addition to the transportation services we already have.

Metro Transit currently enforces ticketing laws and requires every passenger to purchase a ticket or possess pass cards, such as a U-Pass or Go-To Card, before boarding the light rail or buses, except between the Lindbergh and Humphrey airport terminals. According to the Metro Transit website, the passengers who fail to show a valid pass card or ticket “are subject to a $180 fine,” which may affect students if the University fails to reach an agreement with Metro Transit to establish a fare-free zone on the light-rail track that runs through campus and near student housing.

Currently, University students can ride Metro Transit buses and the light rail using U-Passes, which cost $97 and are valid for a semester with unlimited rides. With a new stretch of light rail running through campus, however, Metro Transit will realistically have to deal with a large number of students using the light rail without passes — so much so that it would be unrealistic to expect all students to have passes. Oversight over the surge of passengers is simply unfeasible, especially in such a small stretch of the light rail. It would be ideal if the University and Metro Transit would both realize this and have an official agreement in order to protect students within these stops, perhaps using U Cards as a means of a pass on the light rail.

Nevertheless, students support a fare-free zone on campus. Mike Mwirigi, a  political science and global studies senior, said, “[A] fare-free zone would be an excellent idea and will improve campus transportation for students and faculty members.” So far there have been talks initiated by the Minnesota Student Association to propose the fare-free zone idea, which may generate more public discussion among universities and ideally lead to implementation. Given this preliminary discussion, the idea of a fare-free zone through campus appears to be reachable by the end of construction.