In our news roundup yesterday, we noted that ASUW (UW’s student government) would be hosting a forum today to discuss the endangered U-Pass. The discussion will take place in Room 310 of the Husky Union Building on UW campus from 4pm to 5pm. With severe budget cutbacks at the University, the current funding model is unsustainable. The U-Pass is heavily subsidized, costing students $99 and faculty/staff $120 per quarter. According to ASUW, 11.5 million trips are taken with the U-Pass annually.
In recent years, more and more people chose to use U-PASS and fewer and fewer chose to drive, making it impossible to grow the revenue from parking proportional to the new program costs. In addition, financial distress among local transit agencies has led to increases in the cost per transit trip, and a new tax on parking has decreased the amount of parking revenue available to fund U-PASS. If we do not find an alternative funding model, the U-PASS program – which provides the UW community with affordable, convenient, and safe transportation options – will cease to exist in its present form.
UW students can take a survey (log-in required) to address comments and thoughts on a few new funding alternatives. Read about the alternatives below the jump.
There are currently three models that are being looked at: two new options, and the existing model. The first two would impose some kind of fee on all students regardless whether or not they commute by transit. The last model would escalate per-pass prices until cash fares would be cost-competitive. The program would then be terminated in that case.
This option would provide every University student, staff and faculty member with the benefits of the U-PASS program such as full fare on six area transit agencies, NightRide, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements, and merchant discounts. The fee would be within a projected range of $60 – $80 per quarter and appear as a regular item on a student tuition bill. A universal transportation program, similar to this proposal, has been a sustainable funding option at the Evergreen State College, Western Washington University, and Washington State University.
Universal Transportation Fee
This option would provide every University student, staff, and faculty member with certain benefits such as NightRide, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements, and merchant discounts. The fee would be within a projected range of $25 – $35 per quarter and appear as a regular item on a student tuition bill. In addition this fee would offset the cost of a transit-only U-PASS, which would provide full fare access to area transit agencies. The estimated cost of the U-PASS would be $70 – $80 per quarter. A transportation fee is used at our peer institutions such as the University of California, Berkeley, University of Colorado, Boulder, and the University of Connecticut.
Maintain Funding Model with Escalating U-PASS Prices
This option would continue the current U-PASS funding system. Based on current trends, parking revenue will remain flat while program cost will continue to increase. It is projected that this will result in escalating prices of the U-PASS, ranging from $99 – $200 per quarter, over the next 4 years. This option would jeopardize campus transportation benefits such as NightRide, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements, and transit options to campus.