On June 15, Arizona State University Parking and Transit Services (PTS) announced that it will begin charging students $40 per semester for the ASU U-Pass, which is valid for unlimited rides on METRO light rail and all Valley Metro bus routes. Previously, passes had been free for students.
The change in policy is due to Valley Metro’s upcoming 40-percent fare increase, effective July 1. Under the new policy, PTS continues to subsidize the majority of the cost to students. “Parking and Transit Services is pleased that we have been able to provide this valuable service to our community members,” PTS director Theresa Fletcher says. “We are not aware of any other university comparable in size to ASU that has been able to financially sustain a free transit pass program for their students and employees for as long as we have.”
With the subsidized U-Pass, the cost for one month is equal to $8.88, or $0.25 per day, compared to $55 per month and $3.50 per day for the cost of a pass from Valley Metro. The cost of an unsubsidized Valley Metro pass for the semester would be $195.
Last year, PTS began charging employees at ASU $10 per pay period for a local U-Pass to help meet rising costs of the program. In 2005, the program’s inaugural year, PTS paid $600,000 for the U-Pass program. In 2008-09, the department projects that program costs will reach between $1.5 million to $1.8 million.
Among the options considered to address the rising cost of the program were discontinuing the U-Pass subsidy altogether or implementing a mandatory student transit fee. PTS is adding stops to existing free shuttle routes.
Currently, ASU students represent 25 percent of total ridership on METRO light rail, according to the university, with more than 27,000 U-Passes issued to students in the 2008-09 school year.