After months of negotiation between UCI and OCTA, UCI students and employees will be able to ride any OCTA bus route any day of the week for free starting Jan. 5.
The goal of this University Pass program, or U-Pass, is to encourage students to use the transit system as an affordable and convenient alternative to commuting to campus in an effort to help alleviate the parking problems currently afflicting UCI.
Before riding on buses for free, students and employees must activate the magnetic strip on their UCI identification cards at the parking office or UC Items store each academic year. The card is valid until the end of June, and students and employees simply swipe their identification cards at the fairboxes located inside the buses where one might have previously inserted a bus pass or money.
‘We know that [UCI] is going to be undertaking a lot of construction projects next year, and parking as a result of these projects will be adversely impacted,’ said Kim Byrne, manager of alternative transportation at UCI.
If the U-Pass program succeeds, fewer parking permits and bus passes will be purchased. Students who do purchase permits will not have to absorb the loss in parking revenue.
‘Our revenue in alternative transportation comes from parking fines. Anyone who gets a citation and pays it generates revenue for alternative transportation,’ Byrne said.
OCTA and UCI have been discussing a program like U-Pass for a couple of years. It was not until OCTA purchased new fairboxes in July 2002 that UCI and OCTA made strides and developed this program, similar to the system UCLA has with the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus called BruinGO! that started in 2000.
‘This didn’t start becoming a reality until we had the right kind of fairbox,’ said Rita Linsey, rideshare and employer outreach representative for OCTA. ‘After that, the problem was getting the magnetic strip on ID cards to be read by the fairbox.’
OCTA and UCI are optimistic about the success of the program. This fall semester, Cal State Fullerton started a U-Pass program with OCTA and the number of riders has increased significantly.
‘[U-Pass] doubled the boarding [at CSUF],’ Linsey said. ‘We just got a report that they were averaging 600 boardings a month