The UW Tacoma U-Pass program was approved by the Board of Regents Oct. 11 to become a program that all students are automatically enrolled in. The U-Pass is the University of Washington’s transit pass based off the One Regional Card for All system, and has been part of the Tacoma campus since its founding, previously on a voluntary opt in basis. The U-Pass allows unlimited bus, Link light rail, commuter and sounder train, and water taxi fare for all transit agencies with the exception of Thurston County.
Once the pass is activated, it operates using a chip reader. Simply tapping or swiping a husky ID card at a bus or other transit reader becomes the equivalent to buying a ticket, and the university is charged for every time the U-Pass is used.
Due to rising costs of the U-Pass and limited availability of parking, UWT’s Transportation Services worked to provide an alternative by proposing a universal U-Pass where every student would automatically be enrolled and pay the mandatory $45 per year. April 16–27, students voted and left input on a survey provided by Transportation Services. The majority of students who participated in the survey voted to approve changes to the opt-in program.
Of the 5,185 students enrolled in the university, a total of 593 students voted in the survey — 561 of which were currently enrolled in classes at UWT. Of the 561, 67.2 percent approved the change to universal rather than opt-in.
UWT has now joined the Seattle campus — who went through a similar process back in 2012 — in making the U-Pass a universal program. UW Seattle’s U-Pass cost $86 and UW Bothell has a higher rate of $110 due to it still being optional. The U-Pass is planned to become mandatory at UWT by next quarter.
James Sinding, auxiliary services manager of UWT’s Campus Planning & Retail Services, explained what the approval of the U-Pass as a universal program now means for all students.
“Since it’s a benefit that every student has, we’re hoping that students are going to utilize it and [take] more transit to campus,” Sinding said. “It’s more likely that if a student is paying for something, that they’re going to try to use it just to get their dollar value out of it. What that means for us is less students driving to campus, which means we are reducing our campus carbon footprint … [and] the amount of cars that are parking on campus and around campus.”
The decision to universalize the pass falls in line with UWT’s urban serving statement by providing low-cost access to campus. The rate will remain at $45 for the next two years. When this goes into effect, students will no longer need to sign up for the U-Pass during registration.
Sinding believes that the amount of cars parking on campus will decrease and the change is an improvement for everyone, even if they mostly commute to campus by car.
“I’m 100 percent certain that it will reduce the amount of students parking on and around campus,” he said. “Parking is still going to be tight within close proximity of campus … [and] we are not saying that public transportation works for everyone. We’re hoping that those people will approach us and ask us how they can utilize the program.”
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