$20 U-Pass may be on its way in Fall 2009

By Gizelle Gajelonia, Maria Grant and David Pham

The UH student government may have a solution to help reduce traffic in the state.

The Associated Students of the University of Hawaii wants students off the roads and on the buses by proposing a mandatory $20 student fee that would decrease the cost of student bus passes, or U-Passes.

ASUH is proposing the $20 U-pass fee as an incentive for University of Hawaii at Manoa students to ride TheBus. Currently, students pay $100 a semester for a U-Pass. If the proposal passes, every student would pay $20 and have a chance to ride TheBus.

According to ASUH senator Kiara Sakamoto, if each student pays $20 for the U-Pass, it will help cover wages, gas and other basic operational costs for TheBus, which is approximately $400,000.

ASUH needs 2,000 signatures or student support from one-tenth of the student body. As of October 2, ASUH has collected 1,940 signatures. According to an ASUH online survey, 92 percent of the student body supports the plan.

Students who like the proposal say that it would make commuting to school less of a financial burden. “The U-Pass would be very awesome. It's really cheap and benefits a lot of students here and (will) help decrease traffic,” said UHM student Nathaniel Pong. But some students feel the proposal would unfairly increase student fees for students who do not ride TheBus. “If not everybody uses TheBus, then they should not have to pay $20,” said UHM student Laura Gearhart. “I would like it for myself personally … but I don't think that it needs to be implemented to everybody.”

ASUH recognizes that not all students would use the U-Pass, but ASUH senator Henry Cheng said that the proposal would provide students relief from the high cost of gas and low availability of student parking, as well as reduce traffic, which affect most students. The proposal has support from both students and public transit authorities. According to Cheng, James Burke, chief of the city's Public Transit Division, and TheBus have “whole-hearted support” for the $20 U-Pass.

If ASUH collects enough signatures, it will go to the vice chancellor for students, Francisco J. Hernandez, who will consider whether to send the proposal to the Board of Regents for review in November. If the Regents get on board, the $20 U-Pass program will be on its way in Fall 2009.


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