Universal Transit Pass gets green light

The pass will allow students to ride the light rail and other public transportation for free during the 2022-23 academic year.

A+bus+stop+at+the+intersection+of+University+and+Berry+Street%2C+captured+on+Wednesday%2C+April+6.

Ray Shehadeh

A bus stop at the intersection of University and Berry Street, captured on Wednesday, April 6.

by Madison Roth

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved the Universal Transit Pass (UTP) for undergraduate and graduate students at the July board meeting. It will replace the U-Pass starting this fall semester and grant students access to public transportation at a lower cost.

The UTP allows students to ride all regional transportation, including the Metro Transit light rail and buses, for free. The pass will automatically connect to students’ U Cards if they pay the transportation and safety fee, which is included in most students’ tuition.

The UTP will transport riders as far as Anoka, with an extra fee to go further on the North Star Line. Students will also be able to travel as far as the Lakeville area in the south metro, Stillwater heading east and Mound heading west of the metro.

“We’ve been in discussion with Metro Transit for the last three or four years,” Ross Allanson, director of Parking and Transportation Services at the University, said. “[UTP] is very supportive of students’ success and community belonging.”

The U-Pass was first implemented in 1999 and cost $50 per semester. The UTP will now cost students $45 per semester, including summer, according to Drew Kerr, the Metro Transit communications manager. Previously, the transportation and safety fee was $26.

Shashank Murali, a third-year student and Infrastructure Committee director for the Minnesota Student Association, played a major role in advocating for the UTP for students.

“It feels incredibly rewarding to see the UTP pass through the Board of Regents,” Murali said. “For many years, countless student advocates have fought for the UTP and it’s because of their dedication that we have made it this far.”

Murali said he is excited to see how students react to the UTP this fall.

“I believe that a majority of students will welcome the UTP and will be thrilled to use it starting this fall,” Murali said. “I’ve already had several students reach out to me about how important the UTP is and how it will make a significant change in their daily lives.”

Kerr said when Metro Transit and the University were talking about this project, they turned to hundreds of students through a Minnesota Student Association survey. A majority of students said they would be willing to pay the extra cost for the UTP, according to the survey, Kerr said.

“When students say they will pay the cost and use the transit, we have to listen to that,” Kerr said. “We’re really excited about this and have wanted to do it for a long time.”

There is no option for students to opt out of the UTP, Allanson said. He said every student will get charged the $45 fee since the UTP will be on every student’s U Card. There will, however, be an op-in process for students who do not pay the transportation and safety fee.

Allanson and Kerr both said they were excited about the opportunities the UTP offers for students.

“It gives great access to affordable and healthy food options, access to retail shopping, access to other activities they might want to engage in, visiting family and giving them more options for housing,” Allanson said.

Kerr said having access to different types of transportation exposes people to public transportation and provides them with the opportunity to learn how to use it.

“Being able to have that transit experience, it’s a good foundation to have,” Kerr said.

 

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the amount of the original U-Pass. In 1999, it cost $50 per semester. A previous version of this article misstated who sent out the student survey. It was a Minnesota Student Association survey.