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Rider's Almanac Blog


At the University of Minnesota, a transit pass in every pocket

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, July 14, 2022 8:45:00 AM

A Route 2 Metro Transit bus travels on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

For the past 23 years, students at the University of Minnesota have had the opportunity to buy passes that let them ride transit as often as needed for about $100 a semester.

Now, they’ll get an even better deal.

Beginning this fall, around 39,000 students who pay the school's Transportation & Safety Fee will be able to ride transit simply by tapping their U Card, the same student ID they use to purchase meals, access buildings, and check out books.

The switch to what will be known as the Universal Transit Pass program was endorsed this week by the Metropolitan Council and the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents.

A four-year agreement sets minimum payments to Metro Transit that will be covered through an increase in a student transportation and safety fee. Students advocated for the change, which will allow them to ride for less than half the cost of the previous pass program.

“The Universal Transit Pass will provide students enhanced and more equal access to nutritious food, affordable shopping and recreation, from Target Field to the Mall of America and beyond,” said Daniel Tobias, infrastructure director for the Minnesota Student Association. “With this initiative, students will be healthier, happier, and better able to take full advantage of what the Twin Cities have to offer."

The University of Minnesota is served by the METRO Green Line and several local and express bus routes. Improving access to nearby destinations, particularly grocery stores, featured prominently in the push for the Universal Transit Pass program.

“Students also expressed their strong support for expanding access to destinations in a sustainable way, which is what transit offers,” said Ross Allanson, director of parking and transportation services at the University of Minnesota.

The University of Minnesota becomes the largest school in the region to offer all students unlimited ride transit passes. Universal Pass programs are also in effect at Augsburg University, Macalester College, Anoka Ramsey Community College, Anoka Technical College, and Normandale Community College.  

Ridership at Augsburg and Macalester nearly doubled after Universal Passes were introduced at those schools.

“Introducing students to transit not only helps them while they’re in school, on a budget and often without a vehicle, but also helps create lifelong transit use habits that we hope will continue in their professional lives,” Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra said.