Monday, May 16, 2011

UW Board of Regents Approves Universal U-PASS

We received the ASUW press release below today. Background information can also be found at this Board of Regents meeting site.


Chris Jordan
ASUW PR Coordinator
Phone (206) 543-1780

UW Board of Regents approves Universal U-PASS fee
Survey found overwhelming support for program among UW students

SEATTLE, WA – The University of Washington Board of Regents voted Thursday, May 11th to approve a proposal for implementation of a universal student fee to fund the U-PASS program.

The proposal was brought forward by the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW), Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) and UW Commuter Services after a combination of factors caused the program cost to increase in recent years. ASUW and GPSS sought solutions through the Student Transportation Task Force and conducted a survey of the study body which found 79 percent of UW students in support of a Universal U-PASS fee.

“I applaud the Regents’ decision to approve this proposal and save the U-PASS program. It so important that we preserve sustainable, low cost transportation for UW students,” said Madeleine McKenna, President of the ASUW.

With implementation of the Universal U-PASS, every student will be included in the program, thus broadening the funding base and stabilizing the cost over the next five years. 7,000 UW students were surveyed on the idea of a universal fee, and even the majority of those who currently choose to opt-out of the U-PASS expressed support for a universal funding model. The new student fee of $76 will begin in the fall of 2011, and will remain at $76 for at least eight quarters, thus preserving predictability for students.

“We believed that maintaining the U-PASS was a very important priority for our UW community, but only if we could lower the cost for students and maintain predictability. I am excited that we were able to achieve both of those goals,” said GPSS President Sarah Reyneveld.

In fact, most students will see their transportation costs decrease by 23 percent from today's level as a result of this action. They will also avoid the projected cumulative fee increase of 50 percent that would have occurred over the next two years were the program to continue on an opt-out basis. By year two of the Universal U-PASS, the U-PASS fee will be 48 percent lower than the projected U-PASS fee were the program to continue on an opt-out basis, and the typical student will save $72 per quarter on U-PASS fees.

The U-PASS was originally established in 1991 by the ASUW, GPSS and UW Transportation Services. The program provides students with unlimited access to bus, train, and light rail services of six regional transportation agencies. Students receive many other benefits, such as Zipcar discounts, vanpool subsidies, discounted carpool parking, access to the NightRide shuttle service, as well as improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. As a result, the program reduces traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions in the University District.

In recent years, several factors caused the cost of the U-PASS program to increase, including the economic recession. As a result of declining local tax revenue, local transit agencies implemented fare increases. In addition, funds that the UW used to subsidize the program began to dry up.

In 2008, Transportation Services was forced to increase the price of a U-PASS from $50 to $99 in order to cover these costs and maintain the program. Student participation rates dropped and in response, student leaders began searching out solutions. Implementation of the new Universal U-PASS will begin in the fall of 2011.

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