For years, students have been demanding, pleading and beseeching the University to implement U-Pass. Now, at long last, that day has finally arrived. Starting in the new year, all undergraduate students will be automatically enrolled in the program for a $100-per-semester fee which will allow them unlimited rides on Metrorail and Metrobus. Graduate students will have the ability to opt out, but all in all, this policy will cover almost the entire student body.
U-Pass is an outstanding policy that’s been a long, long time coming. From saving students money to protecting the environment, this program is almost all upside.
The policy will affect almost all undergraduate students. The vast majority of students will take the Metro at some point, albeit with varying frequency. The University is located right on the Metro’s Orange, Silver and Blue lines, and part of the GW experience includes taking advantage of accessibility to other parts of D.C., like traveling to visit the Smithsonian museums or trying off-GWorld eateries.
For students who don’t typically have an incentive to travel outside of Foggy Bottom on the Metro, the new policy will serve as encouragement to explore more of the DMV. Students have criticized GW’s culture of living in a bubble for years now, discussing tensions between students living in the Foggy Bottom area and full-time residents of the city and calling out the University for its greedy approach to real estate and its subsequent effect on the community. U-Pass might be the impetus we need to harbor a more integrated culture between GW students and full-time inhabitants of the city.
For some, the Metro is a routine way of getting to campus and back home. The pandemic drove many students to seek off-campus housing and for the students who use the Metro day in and day out, the U-Pass announcement is a boon. Even those who live just one Metro stop away spend close to $5 daily on a round trip. The Metro offers monthly passes for regulars, but the discount is fairly minor and complicated by frustrating minutia, like the pass being limited to, at the very most, one calendar month depending on what day of the month one buys the pass.
The Metro is also a sustainable way to travel, and in GW’s pursuit to become greener, U-Pass contributes to that goal by providing an affordable alternative to Ubers, Lyfts or any other taxi service. Having a Metro pass on hand will encourage students to take public transit in situations when they otherwise might have called a car to take them to their destination.
But administrators should be cognizant of the fact that a $100 fee is not a trivial amount of money, especially for students who do not plan on using the Metro frequently. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, $100 might seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of attending GW in a given semester, but the University should still offer options to accommodate those who aren’t in a position to pay a fee for a service they didn’t ask for.
GW has some existing structures through which reimbursement for travel can take place. For example, the Knowledge In Action Career Internship Fund Travel Grants, also known as KACIF, offer students in an unpaid internship up to $300 in travel reimbursement. That program could be expanded, or a new program could be created in a similar mold, to cover the $100 U-Pass fee for students who demonstrate a financial need.
For many, many students, U-Pass is going to be a game-changer. This is a victory for the student activists who have been calling for this for years now – and the University should continue to listen to the demands of students. An institution that boasts about the jobs, internships and activities that its members do across the broader D.C. community has finally given its students a means to do that affordably.
And, of course, this gives GW the final leg up over American University.
The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by opinions editor Andrew Sugrue and contributing opinions editor Shreeya Aranake based on discussions with culture editor Anna Boone, contributing sports editor Nuria Diaz, design editor Grace Miller and copy editor Jaden DiMauro. Assistant copy editor Karina Ochoa Berkley, who had worked on the U-Pass issue in a separate capacity, recused herself from this week’s discussion.