While walking past Roosevelt University this summer, I saw a sign promoting the new CTA U-Pass. The sign read, “The New Money-Saving University Transit Pass, Sign Up Now!”
For the first time this semester, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is offering a University Pass to college students for a fee set by the participating colleges. The U-Pass would provide full-time students with unlimited access to all CTA trains and busses. Students could use the pass not only for school, but also for personal travel.
As I stared at the sign in disbelief, I thought: Why doesn’t Columbia have the U-Pass?
Columbia and Roosevelt were in the minority of city colleges that did not endorse the idea of the U-Pass when it was first announced last semester. Apparently Roosevelt has since reconsidered.
Every other school in the city endorses the U-Pass. So why not Columbia? Every full-time student at any school participating in the U-Pass program is required to pay the fee, regardless of whether or not they use the CTA. Columbia officials feel that it is unnecessary for each full-time student to pay a $60 fee.
Columbia has the greatest access to all seven train lines in the city. Fifteen bus routes are also accessible within a two block radius of campus.
A full-time student commuting to school via CTA three days a week, at a rate of $1.50 per ride, spends at least $9 a week, not including 35 cent transfers. Over a 15 week semester, that comes to $135. This does not include trips to work, or the use of the CTA for class projects or other miscellaneous trips. The U-Pass, at $60 per semester, would not only benefit students, but also Columbia College. The demand for parking would drastically reduce. With more students taking the CTA, parking would not seem so impossible. Columbia would gain student enrollment by reducing the traffic problem that sometimes discourages students from enrolling at a city college.
Universities that have successfully established the U-Pass Program include Illinois University-Champaign Urbana, Marquette University (Milwaukee) and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (where the U-Pass was first developed in 1994).
Questions remain on how many Columbia students would actually use the pass if they received it.
According to school officials, the U-Pass has been a hot topic with students and parents. A survey with approximately 500 signatures was recently turned in to the Student Life and Development Department by student Aaron Munoz. During registration last week, Munoz petitioned fellow students in hope that the administration might reconsider the U-Pass in the future.
For the record, a survey or questionnaire sponsored by Columbia was never submitted to students.
With nearly 8,500 students enrolled at Columbia, it is time the administration gives something to the students that we can actually use.