Commuter students upset with lack of travel options

Despite 83% of DePaul students being commuters, the university does not provide Metra passes or discounts. Many students are forced to pay hundreds of dollars each month out of pocket to attend their classes because they are commuters. 

DePaul, as an urban dual-location campus with a large population, only has on-campus housing for 2,800 student residents, requiring most students to navigate to campus on their own.

DePaul offers U-Passes to full-time students, allowing them unlimited access to CTA trains and buses while classes are in session. However, DePaul only budgets for students who travel around the city, not those who live outside of the L’s reach.

The Metra does offer a student discount, but it only applies to students in grade school or high school. College students are not included in the program, and some DePaul students say that this is impractical for those who must take the Metra to DePaul every day.

In 2019, DePaul brought the topic of a Metra discount to the attention of students, but let the idea die. 

“Would you ride the Metra more regularly if they offered a DePaul student discount?” DePaul tweeted. With 89.3% voting yes, but no changes have been made.

Many students are frustrated and would like DePaul to pay attention to how students have limited budgets and would benefit from a Metra pass or discount.

Graduate student and commuter Dilusha Silva says she used to spend nearly $200 a month on the Metra before switching to the monthly Super Saver pass, but she still spends $100 monthly. 

“I am putting myself through grad school on an extremely limited budget,” Silva said. If the university provided a Metra pass like U-Pass, it would help with all my expenses.”

The Metra provides a wide range of tickets, including one-way tickets, day passes, monthly tickets and more. 

Metra ticket prices also vary according to the fare zone. The farther you travel, the higher the fare prices, depending on the originating and destination station. 

Other students, like freshman and commuter Amy Kostadinov, travel over 40 miles weekly, if not daily, to attend classes. 

“Being a freshman, I was required to take Discover Chicago, so I commuted five days a week and I did not have Fridays off for a little over a month, but I typically commute four to five days out of the week,” Kostadinov said. 

Kostadinov and other students say they can spend up to an hour and a half just getting to DePaul. While it varies for many individuals, some students spend the majority of their day sitting on the train.

“It’s realistic for commuting college students to receive reduced Metra fares just like K-12 students,” Kostadinov said. “My income has been affected and reduced fares would make college-related expenses a lot easier for me.” 

Along with not offering a Metra pass or discount, some DePaul students feel like the university is shortchanging students by not allowing their U-Passes to run year-round, as U-Passes are suspended during each academic break.

Senior Sam Gutterman thinks it is unfair that students must pay out of pocket during breaks to ride the CTA when having a DePaul U-Pass. 

“It would be helpful if the U-Pass was active so I wouldn’t have to spend money on something that is already included in my tuition,” Gutterman said. 

Commuter students do not live on campus, and many of them, like sophomore and commuter Alina Choughale, find themselves spending a lot of money on food.

“A Metra pass would allow me to save money and use it toward other expenses,” Choughale said. “I find myself spending a lot of money on food.”

Until DePaul offers a metra pass or a discount, 83% of DePaul’s population will continue to spend money out of pocket and remain dissatisfied.

“I hope for the best,” Silva said. “Given the number of students that commute to DePaul, hopefully, the university would be more considerate and introduce a Metra pass for students.” 

Connect with Vanessa Lopez: @v_lopez__ | [email protected]