What are we asking for & Why?
Since the UW Pass or Fail campaign began in spring 2018, we have made progress! The UW has agreed in union negotiations to provide full transit benefits to over 10,000 employees starting July 1, 2019. This is around half of the UW’s Seattle workforce. We believe all UW employees deserve this benefit, whether or not they are represented by a labor union. So, now we are asking the UW to extend this policy to cover all employees by July 1, 2019. There are so many reasons why!
36% commute trips by UW employees are still taken in single-occupancy vehicles. Road transportation represents two thirds of Seattle’s climate-changing carbon pollution, according to a 2017 report by the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment. As climate instability intensifies, lowering these figures by incentivizing transit use is becoming an urgent matter of climate justice.
Full transit benefits are already a standard best practice for major institutions throughout the Seattle area. For example, King County, the City of Seattle, Microsoft, Swedish Hospital, and Seattle Children’s Hospital all provide unlimited transit passes for their employees. All state employees in King County, except educational institutions, receive fully-subsidized transit passes. So do workers at the UW-associated Valley Medical Center, University Physicians, and Northwest Hospitals.
Unfortunately, the University of Washington lags far behind its peers. For workers at the UW Campuses, UW Medicine, and Harborview Medical Center, the UW currently covers only 19% of the employee pass cost, with parking fees covering 23% and pass holders covering 57%. The employee cost for the UPASS has grown by 114% since 2008, currently costing $150 per quarter.
Only 60% of UW employees purchase a transit pass at the current price of $50 per month, and that percentage has gone down significantly over the past ten years as the cost to employees has more than doubled.
The detrimental effects of the UW’s policy choice will only increase as the Seattle Campus expands, growing by 13,000 people during the next 10 years. Although the UW claims there will be no negative unavoidable traffic and transportation impacts, an Environmental Impact Statement concludes that with an additional 6,195 single occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips per day by 2028, 9 of 13 U District intersections will be gridlocked and three others will be near gridlock with massive transit delays.
Unlimited transit passes have a proven and positive effect on commute behavior. According to the 2008 Seattle Urban Mobility Plan, “universal transit passes are usually extremely effective means to reduce the number of car trips in an area; reductions in car mode share of 4% to 22% have been documented, with an average reduction of 11%. By removing any cost barrier to using transit, including the need to search for spare change for each trip, people become much more likely to take transit to work or for non-work trips.”