Stu­dents ben­e­fit from cheap com­mut­ing costs through U-Pass

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Brian Zahn bzahn@newhaven­reg­is­ter.com @brizahn on Twit­ter

NEW HAVEN » Stu­dents at many of the state’s uni­ver­si­ties no longer need to take a de­tour when faced with fi­nan­cial road­blocks pre­sented by com­mut­ing, state of­fi­cials an­nounced Mon­day.

Start­ing this se­mes­ter, full-time and part-time stu­dents at many state col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties can claim a U-Pass, which pro­vides rides on all lo­cal buses, Metro North and CTFas­trak for a $20-per-se­mes­ter fee, in­cluded in tu­ition. The UPass CT pro­gram grew from a part­ner­ship be­tween the Con­necti­cut Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and of­fi­cials at the Con­necti­cut State Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties sys­tem and the Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut.

CSCU Pres­i­dent Mark Ojakian said trans­porta­tion can some­times make an ed­u­ca­tion cost-pro­hib­i­tive.

“Many stu­dents don’t have the lux­ury of just go­ing to school full time,” he said, adding that many need to con­trib­ute to their fam­i­lies’ in­come in some ca­pac­ity.

Passes are avail­able at nine of CSCU’s com­mu­nity col­leges and two of its uni­ver­si­ties, in­clud­ing Gate­way Com­mu­nity Col­lege, Housatonic Com­mu­nity Col­lege, Mid­dle­sex Com­mu­nity Col­lege and South­ern Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity.

At CSCU’s cam­puses, 65,000 passes were made avail­able. In­clud­ing passes of­fered at four UConn cam­puses, 87,000 stu­dents are el­i­gi­ble for the pass.

“A few (cam­puses) don’t have the type of ser­vice yet to make this hap­pen,” Ojakian said, adding that it’s added in­cen­tive for the state to cre­ate more tran­sit routes. “We needed to have re­sources avail­able to in­crease the num­ber of routes. Part of the pro­gram as it con­tin­ues is to in­crease the num­ber of routes.”

James Redeker, com­mis­sioner of the state’s DOT, said he hopes the pro­gram will cre­ate a “new gen­er­a­tion of tran­sit rid­ers, of green rid­ers.”

“$20 is a re­ally low price,” he said. “We want to make mil­len­ni­als into the tran­sit rid­ers of the fu­ture.”

The av­er­age cost of a bus pass alone is $63 per month.

Gate­way Com­mu­nity Col­lege en­gi­neer­ing science stu­dent Ben­jamin Nnko, who cur­rently com­mutes to New Haven from Meri­den, said the dif­fer­ence in cost is sig­nif­i­cant to him.

Ham­den stu­dent An­drea Lewis said she ap­pre­ci­ates how easy it is to swipe her stu­dent ID in­stead of fum­bling for other doc­u­ments or ex­chang­ing money.

“Some­times, you can even get a snack from the cafe­te­ria,” she joked.

UConn Trans­porta­tion Plan­ner Tanya Hu­sick said the ex­press bus ser­vice be­tween UConn’s main cam­pus in Storrs and Hart­ford is “a game changer for our univer­sity.”

“We never had much in the way of tran­sit be­fore this,” Hu­sick said. “I can’t say enough about how much this does for our stu­dents.”

Ex­am­ples Hu­sick pro­vided were that stu­dents were able to af­ford trans­porta­tion to in­tern­ships and other de­gree pro­grams at other state uni­ver­si­ties and are able to seek hous­ing in parts of the state in­ac­ces­si­ble by the cam­pus shut­tle.

Redeker said one way to project in­ter­est in the first month is to look at the rid­er­ship on the bus from Storrs, which has grown by sev­eral hun­dred to more than 600 rid­ers daily.

“I think that’s the kind of suc­cess we’re go­ing to see sys­tem-wide,” he said.

South­ern Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Joe Ber­tolino said he was sur­prised to learn many of his stu­dents live along the shore­line and had been tak­ing the Metro North into cam­pus, which is even more ex­pen­sive.

“It’s been life-changing for stu­dents tak­ing the train,” he said.

The pass is good seven days a week. The U-Pass can’t be used for a week­end ex­cur­sion to New York City or a Yan­kees game in the Bronx, how­ever. The pass is only valid for in-state travel.

BRIAN ZAHN / HEARST CON­NECTI­CUT ME­DIA

Con­necti­cut Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sioner James Redeker speaks about U-Pass CT at Gate­way Com­mu­nity Col­lege. At left are Con­necti­cut State Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties sys­tem Pres­i­dent Mark Ojakian, UConn Trans­porta­tion Plan­ner Tanya Hu­sick and South­ern Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Joe Ber­tolino.

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