Launch of Hoya Transit pilot sees surge of student interest

Published September 15, 2022

Illustration by Deborah Han

After an overwhelming wave of interest, 4,067 students will enter the Hoya Transit Pilot Program and receive a $100 SmarTrip credit to use for the fall semester. The university will collect data for the next two semesters and use it to determine the viability of a permanent U-Pass program at Georgetown.

The pilot program will last for a year, after which the university will evaluate the possibility of implementing the U-Pass program, which grants students unlimited free rides on the Metro and buses, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). The student body voted overwhelmingly in favor of a GUSA referendum approving a U-Pass program in May 2021. This pilot program represents the first steps towards a long-term solution.

“This is an immediate need for students—not just for internships, but being able to explore the city. That’s kind of why we went to Georgetown in the first place, to explore D.C.,” Rowlie Flores (COL ’22), a co-sponsor of the 2021 referendum, said. “It is a way to allow students to navigate the city with very little out of pocket expenses.”

The fight for a U-Pass program has been two years in the making, according to Flores. Motivated by the U-Pass programs at American University—and more recently George Washington University—Flores and several other GUSA senators began working towards a Georgetown U-Pass program, but faced several bureaucratic roadblocks from university administrators.

“We walked through a bunch of meetings and we got stonewalled over and over again,” Sen. Camber Vincent (SFS ’24) said. “It was a lot of waiting and hoping to get an update.”

At Georgetown, public transportation acts as an essential connector from the neighborhood to the city; the goal of the U-Pass program is to make public transportation more financially accessible, although some students have raised concerns that WMATA’s U-Pass program does not include the D.C. Circulator system—the bus system with a $1 fare—and that Georgetown lacks a Metro station, limiting the program’s viability.

“Our goal in GUSA and my goal on this project is to eventually turn that data into a U-Pass program to show that there’s demonstrated need to then allow the university administration to negotiate with WMATA for the appropriate pricing schemes, for the appropriate implementation schemes, and eventually get that resource for all of our students,” Vincent said.

University administrators will collect data to determine the future of a Georgetown U-Pass program.

“On our end, this is the first step towards a U-pass. On the administration’s end, this is not a commitment towards the U-Pass, it’s just a data gathering program,” Vincent said. 

Administrators expanded the program to include the over 4,000 applicants from the initial limit of 2,500 to expand the amount of data gathered; as a result, there will not be a second fall registration window in October as the FAQ page had initially noted, according to a university spokesperson.

“In order to determine how best to support our student populations, we will gather data and feedback related to overall ridership, transit type, trip duration, frequency and geographic area,” a university spokesperson wrote in an email to the Voice. “This data and student feedback will be used to inform the University’s transportation options and offerings in the future.”

Students who missed the fall semester’s registration window will be able to apply in the spring; registration from the fall will not roll over.

Nora Scully
Nora is the fall 2023 editor-in-chief. She enjoys cats and dogs of all types and has been working on approaching D.C. dog owners to ask to pet their dog(s).

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