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April 25, 2014

SG transportation survey results released

Sixty-nine percent of students expressed support for U-Pass, with 17 percent undecided and 13 percent opposed, in a recently closed transportation survey held by Student Government (SG). Despite the strong support, it is unlikely that UChicago will implement U-Pass for the 2014–2015 school year since the deadline for adding a referendum to the SG elections has passed.

U-Pass provides unlimited transportation on CTA buses and trains for $7.50 per week. If passed, the University of Chicago would enter into a contract with the CTA by division, requiring students in each division that opts in to purchase U-Passes. The School of Social Service Administration signed a U-Pass contract in March following a referendum, making U-Pass available to that division this quarter.  U-Pass systems are already in place at most universities in Chicago, including Columbia College, DePaul University, Loyola University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Student Government’s Community & Government Liaison Tyler Kissinger was unsure about where funding would come from. He said the University may pay for U-Pass, but that it was possible that students would have to pay the entirety of the cost.

Kissinger is running for Student Government president, and he said that if elected, he would continue conversations with Transportation, Financial Aid, and Campus and Student Life to hold a referendum in the fall for the student body to vote on U-Pass.

“The U-Pass is an issue that cycles in and out,” said Kissinger. “For me, [these results are] encouraging. Past referendums on this issue have only shown a 50 to 60 percent vote in favor.”

According to Kissinger, the last time U-Pass was seriously considered was in 2009. He believes that the lack of data regarding student interest and the program’s benefits is what kept it from passing in the past, and the need for that data was the impetus for the current survey.

500 students responded to the survey, 175 of whom were from the College. The only graduate school divisions to have enough participation to be considered a significant sample size, according to a blog post written by Kissinger on the SG website, were the Biological Sciences Division, the Law School, and the Booth School of Business.

Kissinger pointed out other limitations to the survey.

“Out of the gate, I think it is important to note that there is very probably a selection bias in the people who took the survey. People who are interested in transportation are probably predisposed to supporting the U-Pass,” he said.

According to Kissinger, graduate students were most polarized on the issue. He said that some commented in the survey that the U-Pass would save them $1,000 a year because they live outside of Hyde Park, while others, many of whom already own a car, were opposed.

Students reported currently riding the CTA an average of three times a week ($6.75/week) and a median of twice a week ($4.50/week). Kissinger acknowledged confusion over whether the rides students reported were on the free 170s or on other CTA buses and trains. Students would have to use the U-Pass approximately four times a week to surpass the weekly cost of $7.50. According to the survey, with the U-Pass system in place, students claim that they would ride the CTA at an average of five times a week ($11.25/week) and a median of four times a week ($9.00/week).

Second-year Sachin Modak reports that he currently travels downtown about six times per month, but favors the U-Pass.

“The U-Pass would entice me to go downtown a bit more,” Modak said.

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