Highly Successful CTA U-Pass Pilot Programs Made Permanent

May 10, 2023

Recent ‘part-time student’ and ‘tiered-pricing’ pilot programs that have greatly benefited students will be part of new five-year agreement with local colleges, universities  

Today, the Chicago Transit Board approved an ordinance that makes permanent two recent pilot programs for Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) successful U-Pass Program by extending benefits to full-time and part-time* students at participating colleges and universities, and also offering a new tiered-pricing structure to help make the discounted fare-pass program even more affordable.  

“By offering greater flexibility and access to what is by far the most convenient and affordable transit option around, the changes made to the U-Pass Program are a win for all involved,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “Now full-time and part-time students can opt-in to have unlimited travel on the CTA during the school year at an affordable price, and in return they will help boost ridership outside the peak travel period, all while developing healthier, greener travel habits – ideally becoming lifelong public transit users.” 

The U-Pass Program has been in existence for more than 20 years and will be renewed for another five years beginning with the 2023-2024 academic school year. The program currently has 60 participating schools with about 94,000 students enrolled. During the pandemic while many students were attending school remotely, schools were no longer required to enroll 100% of eligible full-time students and the U-Pass Program was changed to an opt-in model. 

Under the new agreement, the U-Pass Program will remain an opt-in model and permanently offer tiered pricing for participating schools since it was introduced a year ago, last May. Current pricing of the U-Pass Program is set at $1.25 per student-per day for schools that have fewer than 100% of students enrolled. For schools that have enrolled 100% of their students in the program, pricing is set at $1.00 per student-per day.  


Also, the U-Pass Program will now be available to part-time students taking four or more credit hours per quarter and six or more hours per any term greater than a quarter. This follows a successful pilot study offered at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and City Colleges, which saw overall student enrollment in the U-Pass Program increase by 10.5%. This new addition to the program will include most part-time graduate and undergraduate students.  

The CTA U-Pass Program demonstrates that many colleges and universities see the great value of discounted transit pass pricing to enable their students to navigate the bustling city of Chicago. Other peer transit agencies have seen the success of this program and are creating their own versions.  

*Eligible part-time students are those taking four or more credit hours per quarter, and six or more hours per any term greater than a quarter. 

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