UW Tacoma students are voting on whether to change this campus's U-PASS program to a universal, opt-out service.
UW Tacoma students are being asked to approve converting the U-PASS to a universal benefit. The U-PASS is a transportation pass that works on buses, commuter trains, light rail, vanpooling and carpooling.
The U-PASS idea was developed on the Seattle campus in 1991 and arrived on the Tacoma campus in 1996. The program has evolved on the three campuses, mostly in parallel, but with slight differences. At Seattle, the program was converted to a universal benefit for all students, supported by a mandatory student fee, in 2011.
At Tacoma, the program has until now remained an opt-in program for students, most recently costing $45 per quarter for those students who chose to participate.
“At Tacoma, the U-PASS program does not currently cover its costs,” said James Sinding, Auxiliary Services Manager in the Campus Planning & Retail Services office. “Parking revenue subsidizes the U-PASS program at around $200,000 annually.”
The annual subsidy of the U-PASS out of general revenue means that revenue is not available to fund expansion of parking supply on campus or for other general academic needs, said Sinding. “By converting the U-PASS to a universal student benefit supported by a student fee, we will see more students using public transportation to get to campus, and we will also free up resources to expand the supply of parking on campus,” he said.
If UW Tacoma’s U-PASS program isn’t adjusted in this way, parking fees and U-PASS fees will have to go up, said Sinding. “Daily parking rates will have to increase in order to keep the U-PASS program funded and to cover the costs of building a new surface parking lot,” he said. “The U-PASS fee itself would have to double from $45 to $90 per quarter.”
If students approve converting UW Tacoma’s U-PASS program to a universal benefit, the cost would be locked in at $45 per quarter for the next two years. “Even the student that doesn’t commute to campus via public transportation will benefit from decreased demand for parking and the increased supply” that will result from the adjusted program, said Sinding. For comparison, students on the Seattle campus pay $86 per quarter, and students at Bothell pay $102 per quarter.
The U-PASS/parking issue is now in front of students via an online survey over a two-week period ending April 27. Student governance rules require at least ten percent of full-time enrolled students to respond to the survey for the results to count.
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