Metro renews U-Pass partnership with AU
90 percent of eligible students used their U-Pass
Following the year-long pilot program, AU and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority agreed to renew the U-Pass initiative for the 2017-2018 Academic Year.
Under the U-Pass initiative, all full-time undergraduate, graduate and Washington College of Law students, excluding online students or those studying abroad, paid a mandatory $130 student fee and received an unlimited SmarTrip valued at one dollar per day.
On March 23, WMATA issued a resolution for the extension of the U-Pass pilot program until June 30, 2018. Since the program’s initial implementation, ridership increased 10 percent over 2015 levels in the Tenleytown corridor specifically at Van Ness, Friendship Heights, Dupont Circle and Woodley Park Metrorail stations as well as on metrobus lines N4, N2, 33, 31 and N6.
In addition, the program has already generated $2.3 million for WMATA of the projected $2.7 million revenue expected by the end of the 2017 fiscal year, according to the WMATA resolution for renewing the partnership.
WMATA reported that over one million rides with the U-Pass have been taken on the Metrobus and Metrorail. In addition, over 60 percent of rides with the U-Pass are occurring during off-peak periods.
Of the 10,000 AU students enrolled in the program, approximately 9,000 students have used their U-Pass Smartrip cards, said Will Sowers, the Assistant Director of Administration and Transportation and the director of the U-Pass program.
The U-Pass is a convenient and accessible method to travel around D.C. for class trips and weekend activities, Brian O’Connor, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs said.
“I use the U-Pass a couple of times a week, for activities on the weekend or for class trips downtown,” O’Connor said.
Despite these conveniences, students who use the U-Pass less frequently are still required to pay the $130 fee.
“The U-Pass was a good deal if you use it every day or very frequently, especially if you are going to an internship,” SPA senior Ryan Tormey said. “I prefer not to pay or be given the option to not pay for it because I didn’t use it often.”
At AU, the U-Pass initiative is overseen by the Risk, Safety and Transportation Program to encourage the AU community to reduce personal vehicular commuting and find other modes of transportation, such as public transportation and biking.
The Office of Finance & Treasurer (specifically Chief Financial Officer, Vice President & Treasurer Doug Kudravetz) approved the renewal of the U-Pass, Sowers said. Two weeks ago, WMATA’s Board voted unanimously to extend U-Pass until June 2018, according to a press release issued on March 28.
"We are thrilled to have American University on board as the U-Pass program's first participant," said Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld, according to a WMATA press release. "In addition to increased student use on Metro, the U-Pass program helps to promote public transportation and attract a future generation of riders,” he said.
In light of decreases in overall ridership and budget deficiencies at WMATA, the U-Pass pilot program has generated revenue opportunities for Metro. The program’s success has sparked discussion about expanding the program to the Montgomery County Ride-On and the DC Circulator buses, Sowers said.
Though the details of the contract for the 2017-2018 U-Pass program are still under consideration with WMATA, next year’s program will be similar to the original. It is expected to remain at the dollar-a-day value, though the student fee for the U-Pass will be based on the length of the next semester, Sowers said.