Universal bus pass all-or-none

By Ruth Davenport

Behind the doors of the Students’ Union, executive members are hard at work disagreeing over a proposed mandatory post-secondary universal transit pass. Contingent on student approval by referendum, the pass would be granted to all students, meaning every student would pay the obligatory fee.

"The only way something like this works is if it is mandatory," stated SU Vice-president Operations and Finance Matt Lauzon. "I’ve asked Calgary Transit to consider an opt-out scenario, but unfortunately, the only way this is going to work is if everybody contributes to it."

The cost of the U-pass–approximately $110 per year–would be included in tuition and other student fees every year. In return, students would receive unlimited access to the bus and C-train services, regardless of their need.

"My prime objection is that many students don’t use public transit and would be forced to subsidize the cost of those [who] do," stated SU Vice-president External Duncan Wojtaszek. "This is an extremely high cost for what you’re getting–the transit system is not terribly convenient and students have no power regarding the U-pass to join or not join."

Wojtaszek added that although the concept is inherently sound, the cost should be lower, transit service to the university improved, and students consulted regarding transit operations in Calgary.

"I think that students won’t recognize the value of the U-pass until they have it," countered Lauzon. "But there are 40,000 people coming here every day, and regardless of where you’re going, everybody’s got to get around."

Currently, a universal transit pass is in place at 60 universities across North America, including the universities of Guelph, Western Ontario, Victoria and British Columbia.

According to University of Victoria Students’ Society Director of Finance Greg Awai, all UVic students benefited from the U-pass since its implementation in September 1999.

"People who drive have encountered less traffic on the roads and on-campus parking demand has been reduced by 20 per cent," said Awai, adding that vehicle emissions on campus are significantly lower and transit use increased by over 50 per cent.

The U of C is the only one of the three
post-secondary institutions in Calgary looking into a U-pass. Calgary Transit plans to approach Mount Royal College and SAIT student associations about introducing the
U-pass by September 2001.

"It would be easier if we could get all the institutions on board at the same time. It would make things easier for all concerned," said David Macdonald, business analyst for Calgary Transit.

Lauzon said he hopes the university’s leading role in the U-pass implementation will result in a slightly lower fee for U of C students and wants to negotiate a final cost for the pass of approximately $10-15 per month.

"I realize that some people are saying, you’re fighting tuition increases on one hand, and proposing raising student fees on the other," he said. "But I wouldn’t be investigating this if I felt it was a bad thing… and I truly do think this could be a really good thing."

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