Opinion

CTA U-Pass Access Allows for a Unique College Experience

Zol87 | Wikimedia CommonsThe CTA Red Line services two stops on Loyola’s campus, connecting students to the rest of Chicago. Students frequently use Loyola and Granville stops.

There are certain activities which have become synonymous with college life. Spending a late night in the library, struggling to wake up for a morning class or swiping into a dining hall are some. Having trouble leaving a college campus in a cost-effective manner is another defining quality. But students at Loyola and other Chicago universities can bypass that via the Chicago Transit Authority University Pass (CTA U-Pass) system. 

The CTA U-Pass is a public transit pass that allows students to take full advantage of Chicago’s bus and rail systems during the months school is in session. Established in 1998, the U-Pass services more than 45 institutions in the Chicago area, including Loyola, DePaul University and the University of Chicago, according to the CTA’s website.

Built into Loyola student tuition at $155 per semester, the U-Pass offers mobility and adventure on- and off-campus. It grants students the opportunity to remove themselves from the cycle of academic rigor and campus life every once in a while, giving them a reason to explore Chicago.

Though public transportation might seem undesirable at times, it’s a cost-effective and possibly more efficient option compared to taking Uber and driving in the city. The main concern when it comes to taking the CTA, however, is safety.

There really is no way around it — riding the CTA comes with definite crime risk. Servicing more than 619,000 rides daily, there’s one crime reported for every 95,000 rides, or roughly 6.5 instances of crime per day, according to CTA statistics reported by the Chicago Tribune. It’s important to consider this when using the CTA. Perhaps there are times and places where it makes more sense to Uber. But with this in mind, the CTA offers a more economical and convenient option for students. 

In 2018, the average Uber ride in Chicago cost just less than $10, according to Curbed Chicago. The U-Pass, on the other hand, which costs less than $2 a day, gives students access to more than 145 rail stations and 10,768 bus stops all over the city, according to the CTA. 

The U-Pass also allows students to avoid costly parking fees in the city. As of 2017, Chicago had the highest parking rate of any U.S. city at $13 for two hours, according to a study conducted by data company INRIX. The study also concluded more than 63 percent of drivers avoid going places if they anticipate parking to be difficult. The U-Pass allows students to save money and avoid the headache of both driving and using Uber.

Zol87 | Wikimedia Commons With over 10,000 bus stops, CTA buses can be used to help students adventure and explore the city to their desire using their U-Pass.

When it comes to attending a school in a big city with access to public transportation, the U-Pass provides students a fundamentally different college experience than a university without a similar program. 

To escape the occasional monotony of life on another campus, students become dependent on costlier methods of transportation, such as long-distance trains and buses. In small college towns, resources such as shopping centers and jobs are usually farther away. In this regard, schools in the Chicago area have a distinct advantage. With just the tap of a card at a train station or on a bus, the city is yours.

No Chicago school is better suited for the full application of the U-Pass than Loyola. With an ‘L’ station on both ends of campus, one of which is appropriately called “Loyola,” and numerous bus stops around campus, the university is uniquely connected to Chicago’s public transportation. In the past year, the Loyola stop is the only Red Line stop to experience an increase in ridership, according to CTA statistics.

Consider using the U-Pass to experience something new. Maybe there’s a new part of the city to check out. Perhaps there’s a cool coffee shop to go to off the Brown Line or a city park off the Red Line. Whatever it may be, the U-Pass is there for more than just transportation to classes or the grocery store. It’s there to facilitate adventure and experience — experience which students at other universities likely don’t have the opportunity to enjoy.

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