MADISON, Wis. -

A fee will be charged for the UW employee bus pass starting next academic year the university said Thursday. But campus bus routes 80, 81, 82 and 84 will remain fare-free.

The university said the change from a free pass to a $24 annual charge is due to budgetary concerns and to make the UW employee bus pass program sustainable. According to the school, the cost is still a significant reduction compared to the regular single-ride pass cost of $2 or the Metro’s $696 unlimited ride pass for a year.

The university said about 15,000 employees hold a bus pass and an average of 7,000 use the pass each month, resulting in about 1.5 million bus rides annually.

UW Transportation Services, which does not receive state funding, will continue to subsidize the $1.8 million per year program, the UW said.

The $24 employee pass will be available in August and valid through Aug. 31, 2014.

UW Hospital provides funding for employee bus passes. Therefore, UW Hospital employees will not be charged the $24 fee but will continue to receive bus passes from Transportation Services.