U-Pass Facts & Figures for 2008

Last month, the City of Edmonton’s Office of the City Auditor completed a review of the Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) pilot program (PDF). They found that although costs for the program rose, ridership has increased. I took a look at the report, and thought I’d share some of the more interesting facts and figures from it.

For those of you new to U-Pass: it’s a partnership between Edmonton Transit (ETS), St. Albert Transit (StAT), and Strathcona County Transit to provide a universal transit pass to eligible students at the University of Alberta and MacEwan. The current pilot started in the fall of 2007 and will finish up in the fall of 2010.

A total of 84,954 students were eligible in 2008 (counting both the Fall & Winter terms). Here’s the breakdown:

Here’s the revenue that each municipality received in 2008 (the City of Edmonton receives 84%, and the other two each receive 8%):

As the report was created by and for the City of Edmonton, it’s not known what, if any, service changes were made by St. Albert Transit or Strathcona County Transit (unless they too have a report somewhere). ETS made the following changes:

  • 437 service hours were added
  • 3 new routes were added
  • 19 more buses were put into service

Again, we only know the costs for the City of Edmonton. Here are the key figures for 2008:

  • U-Pass Sticker Production costs were $14,500
  • U-Pass Advertising and Promotion costs were $2,928
  • The opportunity cost of the U-Pass program, which is the loss of other ETS fare revenue, was estimated at $10,480,846
  • The cost of providing extra bus service hours was $2,571,221

Add it all up, and you get a total cost of $13,069,495. For the U-Pass program to break even, a fee of $155 per student per term would be required (up from the current $94.50).

In the Edmonton Journal, Councillor Krushell said that ridership nearly doubled from 2006 to 2008, from 7.3 million trips to 13.9 million trips. I’m not exactly sure where she got those numbers, because they aren’t in the report. What is in the report are Campus Passenger Boardings:

As you can see, boardings increased by 21,353 or 12.7% from 2006 to 2008. The report notes that some of this increase may have been caused by factors other than the U-Pass. Other non-financial positives include:

  • An 8% decrease in student parking permits at the University of Alberta since 2006
  • A greater than 8% drop in monthly parking passes at MacEwan for 2007 over 2006

And of course, there has likely been a positive impact on the environment with fewer students driving.

What’s next for the U-Pass?

Although NAIT students initially rejected the program in 2007, a recent survey indicated that a majority would now be interested in joining. The NAIT Students Association hopes to hold a referendum on the issue early next year. The expansion of the LRT to NAIT will no doubt have an impact on interest. If approved, NAIT could join the program for the 2010-2011 school year.

I suspect the program will continue after the current agreement ends, though it is likely that U-Pass fees will rise. Watch for news on a new agreement early next year – the U of A will be holding a student referendum in March to approve new fees, according to The Journal.

4 thoughts on “U-Pass Facts & Figures for 2008

  1. The U-Pass is an awesome perk for university students.

    My one issue with them raising the fees is that they charge EVERYBODY for the pass each semester whether they use it or not. Then, once everyone who paid actually *starts* using the service, they up the fees to cover costs.

    That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  2. As an adult that takes one U of A night class per semester and drives straight from work to the U of A (and then home) with my trunk full of marking & school prep stuff & university stuff, I resent being forced to pay about 15% of my tuition fee for something that is of no use to me. It should be for full-time students only or voluntary.

  3. I live on an acerage just outside of Devon, I pay for parking at NAIT, plus gas and insurance so I can drive into the City to attend NAIT. The U pass is of NO use to me. I am also an athlete at NAIT and often leave NAIT after 9PM, it is safer for me to have a car at NAIT rather than use transit so late. I resent being forced to pay for something I cannot use, I have tuition, books and yearly expenses I have to pay already, this is an expense I cannot afford .. that is NO use to me.

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