U-Pass programs are a “group purchase” transit discount giving students enrolled in participating post-secondary institutions unlimited access to local regular transit services. The pass is subsidized by participating transit systems and is offered to students at a participating institution, as a group.
It is the “group discount” approach which makes the lower price of U-Pass possible. While all participants can access the U-Pass discount on all participating transit systems, the pass is made available to a group irrespective of where individuals may live or their level of transit use. U-Pass programs are funded through mandatory fees paid by all eligible students in each term they are registered. These fees are then transferred to the local transit authority.
What is the U-Pass?
The Edmonton area “U-Pass” is a transit fare program providing participating post-secondary students with unlimited access to regular Edmonton, St. Albert Transit (StAT), Strathcona County Transit, Fort Saskatchewan Transit, Spruce Grove Transit and Leduc Transit services during fall (September – December) and winter (January – April) academic terms.
The University of Alberta and MacEwan University also offer Spring/Summer U-Pass (May - August). The U-Pass program is a partnership of local municipalities, post-secondary institutions and their student governments.
U-Pass does not include charter, special event or contracted services provided by ETS, St. Albert, Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan, Spruce Grove or Leduc Transit to outlying communities, or specialized handibus transit services offered by any of the municipal transit providers. U-Pass is accepted on Edmonton Transit DATS (Disabled Adult Transit Service) service.
Participation in the U-Pass program is available to any publicly-funded post-secondary institutions in the Edmonton region which have been included by Alberta Learning in their “Six Sector” classification model. Visit www.eae.alberta.ca for further information.
What does the U-Pass cost compared to a regular post-secondary pass?
U-Pass prices are significantly lower than the amount students would otherwise pay for monthly passes or tickets over the course of a term, and provide unlimited travel throughout the region.
The current U-Pass rate as of Fall 2016/Winter 2017 is $170.00 per four-month term, which works out to about $42.50 per month.
Fall 2016/Winter 2017 regular post secondary pass rates:
- Edmonton Transit - $377 over 4 months or $81 per month.
- Strathcona County Transit - $420 over 4 months or $105 per month.
- St. Albert Transit - $457 over 4 months or $114.25 per month.
The following are the U-Pass per term prices approved by Council for U-Pass agreements currently in place (September 2017 – April 2021):
- 2017/18: $170.00 per term
- 2018/19: $170.00 per term
- 2019/20: $175.00 per term
- 2020/21: $180.00 per term
- * University of Alberta provides a subsidy to their students.
Has the U-Pass produced transit service improvements for students?
Transit service improvements are made in response to increased use. Transit use among participating students doubled with the introduction of U-Pass. Significant service improvements have in fact been made in response to the increased use since U-Pass implementation.
What are other benefits of a U-Pass program?
U-Pass programs offer students a way to lower their transportation costs, not only for school but also for unlimited transit use across the region including St. Albert, Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan, Spruce Grove, Leduc and Edmonton. This means options for housing, work and recreation are no longer restricted by transit costs. Benefits from reduced vehicle use include
- Transit service improvements in response to greater demand
- Reduced traffic congestion around the campus and local community
- Reduced demand for parking facilities (fewer resources spent on facilities)
- Reduced Greenhouse Gas emissions and their accompanying benefits
What type of fare product is used for U-Pass?
The U-Pass is comprised of a U-Pass sticker affixed to the Student Photo Identification card. The pass (ID with valid sticker) is non-transferable and subject to inspection by transit Operators. The sticker is valid for an entire four-month school term; a new sticker is needed for each term, September to December, and January to April. U of A students have a Spring/Summer U-Pass as well, valid May to August.
U-Pass stickers are issued to student by their institution ONLY.
If your school is part of the U-Pass program, check institution websites for dates and locations for sticker issue.
University of Alberta: www.upass.ualberta.ca
NorQuest College: http://www.sanqc.ca/
Are students consulted about adoption of U-Pass?
A student referendum is required to implement a U-Pass program. Referenda are typically coordinated by a student governing council, and have typically occurred in spring, at the same time as student government body elections.
Which institutions are eligible to participate in the U-Pass?
Not all post-secondary institutions were involved in the initial three-year U-Pass pilot, however, with participating Councils approving a renewed three-year program, all post-secondary schools under Alberta Education’s “Six Sector Model” may choose to participate in the U-Pass program. Participation in the program is student-driven and would require majority support in a student referendum. Please contact your students’ association for further information and to indicate interest.
Can I opt-out of the U-Pass program?
The U-Pass pass program is made available to an entire student group irrespective of where individuals may live or their level of transit use. It is this “group discount” that makes the lower price of the U-Pass possible and therefore there are very limited opt-out situations.
Registered students not enrolled in a credit course on a campus within the participating municipalities are not charged the U-Pass fee.
The following students may apply to opt-out of their U-Pass fee assessment:
- Students registered with the participating municipalities as qualifying for Disabled Adult Transportation Services;
- Students with a valid CNIB registration;
- Students who are employees of a participating transit system;
- Students enrolled in practicum or “work experience” courses who must fulfil their course requirements outside Municipal boundaries for the majority of that school term; and
- Students whose registration at another institution also requires their participation in the U-Pass program.
Students who may opt-out of U-Pass under the above criteria will still be assessed their U-Pass fee unless they apply to opt-out of the program, and should contact their students’ association for further information.
How is the U-Pass program implemented?
Typically, student groups initiate U-Pass projects, either through campus interest groups or under the direction of their student councils or associations. An evaluation is then completed in cooperation with the transit provider(s);
- Research and transit cost estimates are completed by transit partners, feasibility is evaluated and funding established;
- A U-Pass price (the fee paid by students) is approved by City Councils of participating communities;
- The U-Pass concept and price are brought to a student referendum.
Once students approve the U-Pass fee structure in a referendum, a formal agreement is signed between the local transit authorities and the post-secondary institution's students’ union/association, or the institution's administration. These agreements confirm the terms and conditions, including length of the program, eligibility, pricing and administrative procedures.
Where else have U-Pass programs been implemented?
U-Pass programs are common at post-secondary institutions across North America, with 25 Canadian cities and over 50 institutions currently participating in a U-Pass program. Canadian cities include Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Hamilton, London, Kingston, Peterborough, Guelph, Windsor and others.