When the Parking and Transit Office announced in May that it would have to deactivate student U-Passes before the previous announced date, many students were left unaware or confused.
“I had no idea what was going on when I went to tap my U-Pass and all of a sudden, it just wouldn’t work,” nursing junior Melissa Childress said. “The back of the card has an expiration date of June 30, 2009, so I figured there must have been some sort of mistake.”
On May 27 Valley Metro announced that as of July 1, light-rail fare will be increased because of extended hours on Friday and Saturday. The light rail, which currently runs until 11 p.m., will keep trains in operation until 2 a.m. because of increased ridership in the past months.
During April, more than 1 million people rode the light rail, with a total of 1,044,135 tickets purchased. This led to the extension of the hours, and with the extension comes a $250,000 increase to Valley Metro’s the annual operating budget, according to Valley Metro’s Web site.
A one-way pass, which currently costs $1.25, will now be $1.75, and all-day passes will rise $1, putting the new fare total at $3.50.
Student U-Passes are issued free of charge by Parking and Transit, a completely self-funded department. No state or tuition funds are used to supply the office with money for the passes.
“At the time these passes were issued, there was no fixed cost on how much Valley Metro would require Parking and Transit to pay in order to fund student passes,” said Shereen Saurey, information specialist coordinator for Parking and Transit.
Some 27,000 passes were issued in the fall and spring semesters last academic year. Each time those passes are tapped, it costs the department $0.92, which put the monthly spending for the transit system at $250,000, an amount the department had not anticipated.
“This program has caused drastic increases in cost to our department,” Saurey said. “Realistically, we can no longer fund these passes at absolutely no cost to students.”
In the coming weeks, the department will be analyzing its budget in order to organize a new plan for students in the ’09-’10 academic year.
“Certainly the U-Pass program will continue,” Saurey said. “But we do not yet know if we can continue the program at absolutely no cost to students. We are estimating there will be a charge of maybe $100 or so per semester for U-Passes, but no set amount has been decided on.”
Parking and Transit announced in their May edition of the PTS newsletter that the passes obtained in the fall and spring would be ineffective as of May 16. The department also sent out an e-mail to all U-pass holders and posted information on its Web site, informing students about the deactivation.
“We accept responsibility for the fact that the timing of this announcement was not good,” said Theresa Fletcher, director of the department. “However, we did make sure that the academic year was over before cancelling the passes because we knew students would be riding for school purposes until that point in time.”
Students attending school for the first summer session may obtain a new pass, which expires June 30, by simply bringing their Sun Card and a print out of their summer schedule to the Parking and Transit office.
For students attending school during second session, a decision has yet to be made regarding the passes as the department is still weighing its options.
“In this past year, Parking and Transit paid between $1.5 million and $1.8 million for the Valley Metro transit program,” Fletcher said. “That’s a lot of fries.”
More information on future discounts for students will be released as soon as PTS comes to a conclusion.
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