Faced with escalating fares, the University of Washington has decided to no longer provide an opt-out for the U-PASS program. Escalating charges threatened to decrease the participation rate and trigger further rises:
The universal U-PASS program will replace the current system in which students can opt to return the $99 U-PASS each quarter. Starting in autumn quarter, students will pay a fee of $76 per quarter, and the price will be locked in for two years. Faculty and staff will remain in an optional program.
According to Transportation Services, without instituting the universal U-PASS student fee, the student U-PASS fee would rise to $134.40 in the coming academic year and to $148.16 by the 2012-13 year.
At any of these rates, and especially at $25.33 a month, U-PASS is a tremendous deal for a pass at the maximum fare value compared to the open-market alternatives.
According to UW Transportation Director Josh Kavanagh, capping the fare equivalence of the U-PASS wouldn’t help contain costs. Because not many student trips involve Sounder, the formulas don’t really credit the UW much for such a concession.
The University has accumulated $3m in rebates from transit agencies due to lower student ridership than expected. Kavanagh said this would be held in reserve in case fares kept rising, or future negotiations with agencies turned out unfavorably.
In 2008, UW increased U-PASS prices from $50 to $99 per quarter.