Beginning spring quarter, the current optional UPASS is going away and will be replaced with the Universal Student UPASS program. With this change, a mandatory fee of $45 for most students will be added to tuition, similar to the University Y fee. The goal of the Universal UPASS is to keep costs low for students while also making up the deficit that parking revenue is currently being used for to help subsidize the program.
The UPASS change has been in the works for the past year. During the UW Tacoma elections in spring 2018, students had the option to vote on whether they would support a Universal UPASS. 12 percent of the student body voted on the measure — more than the 10 percent needed for it to be official. It passed with 67 percent approval from students, needing only 60 percent to succeed. The University of Washington Board of Regents approved the Universal UPASS back in October 2018. After experiencing some technical difficulties that delayed a planned launch for the beginning of winter quarter, the program will officially start this spring.
James Sinding, auxiliary services manager for Campus Planning and Retail Services, stated that he is excited that the Universal UPASS was approved, but understands that not everyone will be happy with the decision.
“Some students will want to vent on either end of the spectrum,” Sinding said. “Some people might [say] ‘Wow, this is great,’ but I know that there is going to be some people saying ‘Why am I paying $45 when there is no benefit?’ … I definitely want to be transparent about it and proactive about it as opposed to reactive.”
To prevent this fee from being a shock to students, Sinding plans to run an information campaign in the next few weeks. His plans include creating a detailed webpage that explains more on the process of the Universal UPASS’s approval and implementation, as well as a banner over the central staircase and tabling events for discussion.
The current UPASS is a opt-in program. Students who participate are charged a fee of $45 per quarter and have access to Metro Transit, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, Kitsap Transit, Everett Transit and Sound Transit buses, the Sounder trains, paratransit services and subsidized vanpool fares.
With the Universal UPASS, every student will have $45 automatically added to their tuition, with the exception of students who live in Thurston County. Since the UPASS does not include Thurston County’s public transportation, Thurston County residents will only pay $20 a quarter for two years. If no deal is reached to incorporate Intercity Transit, Thurston County residents will no longer have to pay the fee after those two years.
About $200,000 of the program’s $400,000 budget is subsidized by the annual revenue brought in by parking and parking permits. The mandatory fee aims to alleviate much of the subsidization and make it more self-sustaining. Had the Universal UPASS not been passed by students, or had the Board of Regents rejected it, the optional fee would have likely doubled to $90 and would have included possible increases in parking rates around campus.
Both UW Bothell and UW Seattle have their own UPASS systems. For Seattle students, it is an $84 mandatory fee. In Bothell, it is an optional fee for $110 per quarter.
Sinding hopes this change will push more students to use public transportation, as well as reduce the number of commuters who drive alone. Additionally, the Universal UPASS could ease up some of the on-campus parking demands if more students decide to use mass transit.
“The number one goal, in my position, is to reduce the drive-alone rate,” Sinding said. “Then the students that are right on that tipping point are paying for something [they’re] more likely to use. That means less people are going to be driving to campus. I’ll be honest that mass transit does not work for every user, but it is still beneficial to them because it is more likely that they will find a parking spot within close proximity to campus.”
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concerning the Universal