Partnership beween NJ Transit, Rutgers needed for students
In December 2014, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority announced its plan to launch a University Pass (U-PASS) pilot program for Northeastern, Harvard and Tufts University. The U-PASS pilot would require a complete buy-in from one or more area universities to purchase monthly transit passes at a 50 percent discount for all of their students.
Here at Rutgers, students are easily connected with New York City and Philadelphia via the Northeast Corridor Line. In addition to using NJ Transit to commute to and from campus, the statewide public transit system is utilized for internship, employment and cultural opportunities. But all of this comes at a price. A student commuting on NJ Transit to New Brunswick could spend up to $1,626 on monthly passes over six months. Going into Manhattan once a weekend costs $130 monthly. One round-trip alone costs $26.
A U-PASS program would form a partnership between NJ Transit and Rutgers University, transforming student IDs into unlimited transit passes at discounted rates and limited cost. In other states, some universities with U-PASS pay for the program through student fees and increased on-campus parking permit fees. Nationally, on average, U-PASS costs each student $36 per year.
Bringing U-PASS to Rutgers would make the University the first school in New Jersey to do so, solidifying our role as a leader in research and one of the nation’s key centers for the theory and practice of planning and public policy scholarship and analysis. A Rutgers U-PASS program would set the University aside from other state schools and attract future students. Rutgers has the opportunity to connect its students with unlimited resources in New York City and Philadelphia while building a strong transit culture that will benefit NJ Transit and the environment for decades to come.
This incentive could suppress demand for parking, save space on-campus and reduce traffic congestion while helping to improve the region’s air quality. A successful U-PASS pilot covering our students would also open up potential for faculty and staff expansion, strengthening the entire Rutgers community. Even though not every student will take advantage of U-PASS, the benefits of the program are still shared among all students, therefore justifying the mandatory fee.
Additionally, U-PASS has the potential to strengthen local businesses and ensure greater equity in fares. The adoption of a U-PASS program would help commuting lower-income students, improve our relationship with surrounding communities and expand off-campus housing options.
Dozens of universities across the U.S. have already implemented a U-PASS program, but only few compare to the size of Rutgers, and none have yet to partner with a transit system as extensive as NJ Transit. It’s time for NJ Transit to implement a University Pass, and there is no better school to partner with and lead the way than Rutgers.
A petition to bring U-PASS to Rutgers has already received roughly 4,000 signatures, and I am working on building a team of students and professionals who wish to move this program forward. If you are interested in joining the Rutgers Transit Coalition, please contact Liam Blank at RutgersUPASS@gmail.com.
Liam Blank is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in urban planning and design.