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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Opinion: American University’s U-Pass system is a unique triumph

The University’s cost-efficient U-Pass encourages students to explore D.C.

The following piece is an opinion and does not reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff. All opinions are edited for grammar, style and argument structure and fact-checked, but the opinions are the writer’s own.

Before arriving at American University, I hadn’t used public transportation. On the first day of my time here, though, some friends I met asked if I wanted to go night monumenting. After a quick bus ride and a few stops on the Metro, we were at the monuments. American University’s U-Pass system allowed us to take this trip without hesitation. 

The University’s U-Pass system came into effect in the fall of 2016 after plenty of student support. The system charges each student a one-time mandatory fee factored into their tuition. In partnership with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the University, which was the first in D.C. to adopt the program, provides full-time students with a U-Pass card with unlimited access to the D.C. metro and bus systems. 

The U-Pass system saves students plenty of money — the one-time $136 fee covers the eight months students are on campus. A WMATA monthly membership costs between $64 and $192, surpassing the U-Pass equivalent by a wide margin. 

The University also encourages students to explore the city through its shuttle system, which has stops at the Spring Valley Campus, the Washington College of Law, different undergraduate residence halls and the Metro stop in Tenleytown. 

With WMATA’s bus and metro system, the pass encourages students to explore the city. The metro system’s broad radius also allows students to explore places like Bethesda, Maryland and Alexandria, Virginia. 

The system also helps students have access to internships that may not be close to the University without worrying about the cost of transportation. Many students opt for internships on Capitol Hill, which is almost seven miles from the University. The U-Pass would make this commute barely longer than a drive to the Hill without incurring any additional cost.

A potentially controversial aspect of the U-Pass system is the mandatory U-Pass fee students pay. When discussing this fee, Willa Hart, a freshman in the School of Communications, told me that “it doesn’t make sense for people who aren’t planning on using it at all.” 

She also mentioned that “coming in as a freshman, I didn’t know if I was going to use it or not, so just having the option was nice.” Many freshmen, like Hart, don’t realize they would use the U-Pass until they move in and attend the University.

“It’s kind of exciting for me because I don’t have buses back home,” Estella Miller, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, told me. 

Like Miller, many students come from areas where public transportation is not as prominent as it is in the District. Students, if given the option, would not pay for a U-Pass simply because they don’t know how useful it could be. It makes sense that freshmen are required to pay the U-Pass fee. However, sophomores, juniors and seniors already know how useful the U-Pass system is. For these students who have cars or live off-campus, it doesn’t make sense for the U-Pass fee to be mandatory.

The University’s U-Pass system encourages students to explore D.C. and makes it easier for them to commute to internships and jobs in a cost-efficient manner. However, students who have already spent a year at the University might decide they don’t need the U-Pass. If the U-Pass system was mandatory for first-year students and optional for returning students, it could encourage students to explore the city without placing an unnecessary fee on those who decide they don’t need it.

Avyay Sriperumbudur is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences and a columnist for The Eagle. 

This piece was edited by Alana Parker, Jelinda Montes and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.

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