Chicago Transit Authority Renews, Expands Popular U-Pass Program

March 13, 2013

Student fares offered at deeply discounted rate and with added convenience

The Chicago Transit Board today voted on new contract terms for its University Pass (U-Pass) Program. The new contract with colleges and universities extends the program an additional five years, expands the participation of post-secondary schools and adjusts the U-Pass fare while still offering low-cost transportation for students. In addition, students for the first time will be able to use their U-Pass on Pace buses this fall.

U-Pass provides more than 35 million rides annually for students at 52 participating colleges and universities. This fall, the program will be expanded to post-secondary, certificate-granting schools. Currently U-Pass has only been available to schools that award academic degrees.

“The CTA is committed to making sure students have affordable access to public transportation during their academic enrollment,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “The U-Pass is one of CTA’s most heavily discounted passes, and now more students will be able to benefit from this popular CTA program.”

This fall the daily, unlimited ride fares for U-Pass users will increase by 26 cents to $1.07, consistent with past U-Pass price increases. The change, which works out to $15 a semester, offsets the higher operational expenses for the CTA, while offering a rate that is less than half of what a full-fare, single ride costs but with unlimited daily use during the school year. On a monthly basis, students will save a minimum of $66 per month over that full-fare price.

Academic institutions that want to participate in the U-Pass program must enter into a contract with the CTA. Participating schools pay 70 percent of the per-student, per-day price upfront by semester to the CTA.

“Public Transportation has been vital to graduate students annually at Northwestern since 2007,” said Penny Warren, Assistant Dean of Student Life & Multicultural Affairs at Northwestern University’s Graduate School. “Our students are still being offered a bargain price for unlimited daily use on the CTA.”

As CTA transitions to its new Ventra fare payment system this summer, U-Pass program participants this fall will be issued Ventra cards that will replace current U-Pass fare media.

The transit cards will have each student’s name and photo, and will be available for the fall 2013 semester. The new card will be more durable and the only card students will need for transit at all times, even when school is out of session. Full fares will be deducted from the reloadable funds feature on the card when school is out of session.

Students will have the additional benefit of now being able to use their U-Pass on Pace. As a Ventra partner, Pace buses will accept the new U-Pass card and deduct regular Pace fares also beginning this fall.

The new contract is in place through the end of the summer term in 2018 for each participating school. The U-Pass program was created in 2000, when the Chicago Transit Board created the official program after a two-year pilot.

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