Students benefit from cheap commuting costs through U-Pass
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.
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.