The Daily of the UW reports that implementation of a universal U-PASS program will be a quarter behind its original Winter 2010 target (January 2010). A survey completed last spring showed 79% of students, staff, and faculty supporting a universal U-PASS. The pass would be a mandatory fee priced around $60 to $80 with a target of $75. The current pass costs $99 per quarter, almost a twofold increase over 2008 prices. Participation dropped from 85% to 72% in 2009 as a result. The U-PASS needs a new funding model as the existing model, in which students can opt-out by returning the pass, is unsustainable with budget shortfalls and increasing costs from the transit agencies.
Meanwhile, the process of converting U-PASS stickers over to ORCA-embedded Husky Cards is now anticipated to begin sometime in the middle of 2011. The University’s Transportation Services originally had a target of June 2010 and later pushed it back towards late 2010. The delay in implementation comes from the “transit side”, in other words, the agencies implementing ORCA and the system vendor. The process, called “re-carding”, involves replacing every student’s, staff’s, and faculty’s identification card (known as Husky Card) with a new card embedded with an ORCA chip. The new cards will feature a new design and would retain the magnetic strip for its existing functions. Dubs, the Husky mascot, will lead the transition.
According to the University Transportation Committee’s (UTC advises the UW administration on transportation issues) meeting minutes, the e-purse function will be disabled on the ORCA powered U-PASS. The University did not want to deal with customer service issues like refunding e-purse value. Privacy concerns were also raised in a UTC meeting where a loophole in the law allowed media to file a public information request for card user’s personally identifiable information. However, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill 5295 into law earlier this year, closing the loophole. With U-PASS moving to a universal model, a system for students to opt-out of the ORCA powered U-PASS would be unnecessary.