Photo courtesy of Alicia ValentiAs millennials around the country forgo car ownership in favor of saving money and environmental stewardship, colleges are partnering with regional transportation agencies to make public transit more attractive and accessible for this demographic.
Here in the Twin Cities, Metro Transit conducts the College Pass program, which provides discounted passes for unlimited rides to students at more than 40 local colleges. Metro Transit also offers the Go-To card, a reusable transit pass that can be automatically reloaded with value. In the fall of 2016, Metro Transit partnered with CCAP to promote the Go-To card program. Students at Central Corridor Partners St. Catherine’s University, St. Thomas University, Augsburg College, and Bethel University had the opportunity to obtain a bonus $10 for their Go-To cards, and more than 1800 cards were distributed among the four schools. CCAP partner University of Minnesota offers its own option, the U-Pass.
Other cities have launched similar efforts. Chicago’s successful U-Pass program includes over 40 participating institutions. Students receive unlimited rides through the Chicago Transit Authority during the school year and can load the same Ventra card with value when not enrolled. This minimizes the hassle with switching between the U-Pass and city system.
Denver’s CollegePass system is similar with 11 colleges and universities providing discounted transit passes to over 100,000 students. Students who live outside the service area or who are unable to use transit are not eligible for the program.
Seattle offers the greatest variety in student transit options. The University of Seattle offers a U-Pass to all eligible students, providing access to unlimited bus and light rail rides. Seattle University has a similar program, Orca Lift, which offers transit passes at a reduced transit fare. North Seattle College offers a $200 value Orca Card to students for $125, with the option to switch to the PugetPass for unlimited monthly rides.
Even cities not typically known for their focus on walkability are integrating transit into the lifestyle of their college students. Los Angeles rolled out a new discounted-pass program in fall 2016 with 13 universities and community colleges participating. In Las Vegas, the Regional Transportation Commission offers steeply discounted transit passes to students at three participating colleges.
These booming cities are not alone in offering great transit options to students. Sacramento Regional Transit offers a deeply discounted monthly pass to students at local colleges. Five Cleveland universities offer a U-Pass for only $25 per semester. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, all eligible students can obtain a free bus pass by showing a current photo ID.
Transit is growing in popularity and more millennials are choosing urban colleges. Colleges and universities are responding by fostering a culture of transit among their students by making transit use more accessible.