Universities nowadays certainly enjoy drawing in applicants with “perks.” In the past, these have materialized as anything from luxury dorms to climbing walls and all-you-can-eat dining options. UNC has indeed participated in this perks arms race, with the introduction of a bike-sharing program in 2017 and an expansive new Master Plan in 2019. New dorms and bike-sharing are fine, of course. However, there is one perk that other schools in North Carolina have that UNC does not: fare-free transit passes.
Currently, Duke, UNC-Charlotte and UNC-Greensboro, among others, have deals with their local transit authorities to allow students to take public transit without paying a fare. At N.C. State, students can buy a $5 GoPass, which allows them to ride on any GoTriangle system bus fare-free.
As it currently stands, only UNC students living outside of Chapel Hill Transit’s service region may acquire a school-sponsored GoPass. Otherwise, students going out of town to other Triangle locales must pay a $4.50 roundtrip fare ($6.00 if it’s an express route).
Offering a GoPass to students will allow them to skirt these immediate fares, giving them more incentive to visit other Triangle cities. They could visit those cities' museums and cultural spaces, and take advantage of amenities there that aren’t present in a smaller town like Chapel Hill.
Of course, outward-bound students could always drive. But many students who live on campus either aren’t willing or are unable to pay the exorbitant fees that UNC charges for keeping you car on campus long-term. Besides, being in a bus means you won’t have to worry about developing a rage-induced blood clot over some idiot in a Beemer weaving in and out of lanes without using their blinker. And nothing beats riding on the shoulder during rush hour, passing hundreds of commuters by at a cool 35 miles per hour on a gridlocked I-40.
Of course, cost would (and should) be a major concern for a taxpayer-funded (and mostly taxpayer-attended) university like UNC. However, the costs for bringing such a service to fruition would not be an overwhelming burden on the individual.
Forty-Niners at UNC-Charlotte could ride the city’s buses and light rail line day and night for the low price of $25 per year. Perhaps to keep all students from paying for something only some will use, we could utilize a system similar to N.C. State’s, in which members of the Wolfpack can travel across the Triangle for a fee of $5 per year. That’s peanuts compared to the $159.60 we spend on funding Carolina Union programs and $400.16 we spend on student health.
So, to the powers that be at UNC: when faced with so many controversial issues, why not do something easy that would unquestionably benefit the student body, and give us bus passes, yeah?