Most Weber State University students are all too familiar with morning rush hour. It seems everyone knows the feeling of being stuck on I-15. However, some students have become adept at route-planning with Utah Transit Authority Ed Passes. These passes allow students to ride the FrontRunner, TRAX and UTA buses. Currently, they are free in Shepherd Union Building to students with a Wildcard.
Until recently, the passes have been unavailable for the 2011-12 school year due to an ongoing negotiation between UTA and WSU.
“We negotiate every summer with schools,” said Gerry Carpenter, head of media relations at UTA. “We actually have a three-year contract now with Weber State, and this is the first time we have had a three-year contract.”
WSU subsidizes its student passes through student fees and tuition. Altogether, the school pays roughly $363,000 annually, and has received in turn almost $1 million worth of service. The gap between payment and service received is reason enough for a new deal this coming year. Carpenter responded to the issue.
“Currently, students are getting a greater discount than provided to homeless agencies or senior citizens. As our demand has increased, we have had to add helper buses to our routes and our costs go up. It was no longer a feasible program as it had been, so we started looking at ways to increase our revenues and in turn increase sustainability. We felt it was appropriate to ask for a higher rate while still maintaining a higher discount.”
As of now, UTA Ed Passes will remain free for the 2011-12 school year, but this is subject to change. One of the benefits of WSU’s three-year contract with UTA is the ability to determine the amount of money the Ed Passes could cost the school in the future, so that WSU is better prepared for future planning.
Teale Murdock, WSU sophomore, said she wasn’t opposed to the idea of paying for passes in the future.
“I mean, I would be fine with paying for it as long as it remained inexpensive. I won’t say that I enjoy riding the bus, but I love the money I save. It’s probably only like 10 or 15 minutes longer than driving.”
Trett Nelson, a junior at WSU, has had his UTA pass for almost two years.
“Before I got my car, I used my pass almost on a daily basis, mostly just to get to and from school. I would easily recommend it to other students.”
It seems like everyone can agree that the Ed Pass is a good tool to use, including Carpenter.
“I certainly would,” she said. “Certainly this year while it is still free. It’s much more economical to plan your trip and do your homework on the bus while you’re on your way. It saves you cost of wear and tear and insurance for vehicles. We have a growing population, and transit is an important part of reducing congestion on roads and highways. If we can get people to drive less, we can reduce emissions and have a better impact on the environment.”
Murdock and Nelson are not alone on UTA. In the year 2010, WSU faculty and students accounted for approximately 492,500 trips. Across the state, all university students account for around 20 percent of riders.