Will UTA Passes Stay Cheap?

13328-webcopyIf UTA carries through with their decision to raise the price of their student pass, students without a car or who prefer to save the cost of gas may need to find another means of transportation.

The Utah Transit Authority recently released a statement about reviewing the Ed Pass program, a discounted pass available to students, and it would raise the cost.  The pilot program at Salt Lake Community College will offer the pass for $25 a month, and if UTA doesn’t find a significant decrease in ridership, the program will be implemented system-wide.

“UVU and UTA haven’t discussed changing fees,” according to Gerry Carpenter, public spokesperson for UTA, although it’s not implausible that could change. Carpenter explains that UTA’s student pass is $49.75 a month. Each of the many schools in the program – from smaller colleges like Westminster and the LDS Business College to bigger campuses like the University of Utah – choose individually how to subsidize the price.

For example, our BYU neighbors pay $120 and the school pays for the rest, subsidizing with other student fees. UVU does the same, but for $20. That’s unlimited access to all the buses throughout Utah and Salt Lake county, as well as access to the tracks.

But there are more benefits to the pass than just a cheap way to get around what Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell recently said is “becoming the demographic belly button of the state.” The pass alleviates the already crowded parking, provides out-of-state and international students who don’t yet have a car with efficient transportation, and is a more environmentally-friendly option than each student driving his or her own car.

In Orem and Provo, students make up a good number of UTA passengers.  A concern with raising the price of student passes, especially here, is the continued efficiency of the system routes if students discontinue their bussing. If there are fewer passengers, there is a possibility of fewer routes and arrival times.

Perhaps UTA feels they can make this change without hurting their efficiency, but when their system already fails to provide routes up and down a major artery like Orem Center Street, it’s hard to imagine this being a positive change.

Additional reporting by Mel Sundquist.

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