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UW-Superior students to get free ride

University of Wisconsin-Superior students will have an easier time getting around the Twin Ports when they begin returning to campus Monday. The university has joined the Duluth Transit Authority's U-Pass program, which allows students, faculty a...

University of Wisconsin-Superior students will have an easier time getting around the Twin Ports when they begin returning to campus Monday.

The university has joined the Duluth Transit Authority's U-Pass program, which allows students, faculty and staff to ride Duluth Transit Authority buses free with their UWS identification card.

The DTA and UWS signed a two-year contract to provide the program, which began Aug. 17.

UWS staff and students began talks with the DTA about joining U-Pass in spring after students requested the service, said Mike Wallin, UWS public safety/parking services director. Students who are most excited about the program are those who already ride the bus.

Sophomore Sandrine Omog takes the bus to and from campus. She said U-Pass will allow her to have more choices. She could move farther from campus since she won't have to pay for trips to campus and retail stores.

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"I thought we'd never get it because all the other campuses have had it for a long time," Omog said. "It's a great option for me."

The DTA started U-Pass as a partnership with the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2000 and added the College of St. Scholastica to the program in 2001 and Lake Superior College in 2002. It has been a phenomenal success at all the other schools, said Tom Elwell, DTA director of marketing.

In 2000, DTA ridership in the UMD area was 4,000 per month. Now the buses handle that many students in a few days, and monthly ridership is about 45,000, he said.

The U-Pass system has helped UMD during a period of growth. UMD has experienced a 20 percent growth in enrollment since 2000.

Construction at the school ate up parking spaces at a time when more students needed transportation to campus. U-Pass helped get them there and eased the stress of parking. Some students from the Twin Cities area even say they chose UMD because of the U-Pass program, Elwell said.

DTA ridership near UWS is not strong, but Elwell foresees ridership growing with theU-Pass program.

It won't work for all students and staff at UWS because several people drive in from the country, but a good number could benefit from U-Pass, he said.

The free ridership does not add fees for students. The cost of the U-Pass program is absorbed by the parking department budget, Wallin said.

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