By Abby Anderko
As Universities throughout the Washington D.C. area return to campus and begin their new academic calendars, a new transportation proposition sits in the balance, and here at the Catholic University of America, it is waiting for approval from not only the university administration but the students themselves.
WMATA, or Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the organization behind the Metrorail and Metrobus systems that run throughout the Washington D.C. community have created a program, U-Pass, to be utilized by University students throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. This program is designed so that students have unlimited access to the metro systems throughout their time at their Universities, for a price added onto their tuition.
This program is mandatory for all undergraduate, graduate, and law school students at the specific university. Currently, during the pilot, the cost of the program is approximately $1 per day, the equivalent of $130 per semester (approximately $260 per academic school year). This fee is added onto the student’s tuition.
This system is designed to offer students access to the D.C. metro area, potentially with less of an out of pocket cost during their academic school year. With the concept of unlimited metro rides for all university students for the whole school year, the program will inevitably interest students looking to save money in their metro usage.
In the fall of 2016, the Student Government Association, SGA, passed in favor of this program, but following that decision the student body president vetoed it. Then in the spring of 2017, SGA passed to have a referendum to gauge student interest at Catholic. A date for the referendum has not yet been set, but representatives from the SGA are urging students to attend the meetings and presentations to further inform themselves about the U-Pass program. The results of the referendum will be analyzed by the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of the President before approval.
SGA Vice President Jon Paul Weiss gave a statement to the Tower emphasizing the importance of the information sessions. “This proposition directly affects the students of CUA and that is why these info sessions and the referendum itself are very important,” Weiss said.
If implemented at Catholic, the U-Pass program would be at the end of the pilot period which potentially means a rise in the cost of the program itself. This rise in cost can be provoked not only by the WMATA, but also from Catholic itself. In bringing this program to campus, the University would likely have to create an entirely new position in the administration that would maintain and oversee the program here on campus.
The first cost that would need to be covered, other than the fee set forth by the WMATA, would be a $2 for each student card. This card is separate from all SmarTrip systems and would need to be distributed to each student as they return to campus. Also, the university will have to pay up front a 20% replacement card fee for any lost or damaged cards throughout the span of the academic year. With each of the costs adding up, there is a sliding scale of numbers that could potentially increase or decrease depending on the WMATA deal with the university.
Weiss and other SGA representatives believe that if the program is implemented correctly, students can save hundreds of dollars each academic year. Though they have a positive outlook, Weiss did not shy away from concerns about the unreliability of the cost and program. “WMATA has not been successful in communicating with the university in an efficient manner,” Weiss said.
As students begin to hear more about the referendum and vote on the U-Pass program being brought to campus, it is encouraged that they attend these sessions to fully comprehend what the program is and its potential effect on cost of tuition.
“I want every student to know why there has been an additional charge on their tuition,” Weiss said.
Greg Weaver, Assistant Director of the Office of Campus Activities, has been giving presentations about the U-Pass program, and will continue into the month of October.
“These sessions offer a neutral viewpoint to educate the student body for a referendum that will affect everyone,” he said.
More information can be found regarding these U-Pass sessions on the Nest. The next information sessions are: Monday, September 18th, Thursday, September 28th, and finally Monday, October 2nd.
As U-Pass’s slogan is “U Learn, U Work, U Play, U-Pass” it is up to ‘U’ to understand the program and all it has to offer you as a student at Catholic!