By Roger Hollands

The University of Calgary Students’ Union is feeling the heat of added fuel on the U-pass fire.

Last April, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Board of Governors implemented a universal transit pass without any extensive consultation of SAIT students or the SAIT Students’ Association.

"Student response from a market research report presented to SAITSA two years ago indicated that parking at SAIT was an issue,"said Kat Tsakumis, SAIT Student Association President. "Reduced-cost bus passes were indicated by some students as a good option."

Although a U-pass may be one solution to parking shortages and increased traffic flow on campus, SU Vice-president Operations and Finance Natasha Dhillon was adamant that student sovereignty be maintained at U of C.

"I would cry foul if anything like that happened here," she stated. "Students need to decide if they want a service like this or not."

While considered outrageous by some, the decision by the SAIT BoG was partially offset by the hefty dollar amount SAIT allocated to subsidize the cost of the U-pass to students.

"Students who are eligible for the U-pass pay $8.75 per month or $35 per semester," explained Tsakumis. "This is a considerable reduction when compared to $47.50 per month with student ID or $52 per month without ID. SAIT will be putting in $1.1 million in order for students to receive a fare so low."

U of C students will pay more for a U-pass when, and if, it it is implemented. However, Director of Ancillary Services Pete Fraser was hopeful that costs will re-main reasonable.

"Clearly, if we are able to offer this program it will be at a major savings to students already using a [transit] pass" he said. "I would be comfortable with a $50 to $60 per semester fee, but there would be some struggle with it because it would be a fee that everybody pays."

Fraser outlined expectations that the U-pass will save students money.

"For those who drive, they can be sure of getting space on campus when they come," he said. "Parking rates will escalate if they need to build new parking structures. I am not in favour of increased parking costs."

Fraser explained that if the number of students driving to campus continued to rise, parkades may be required to accommodate their vehicles. When calculated, the cost of one stall in a multi-floor parking structure is approximately $12,000.

While Fraser believed that the U-pass may offer savings for some, he was not optimistic that the cost would be as low as SAIT’s.

"I think the idea has some great potential," he said. "But the university would be hard pressed to subsidize this."

On the other hand, Marketing Development Planner for Calgary Transit David MacDonald views the U-pass as a revenue generating proposition. MacDonald explained that a Calgary Transit studies group will be conducted this fall to determine university ridership. Once ridership has been determined CT will be able to determine projected revenues coming from U of C students and establish a realistic fee. As the situation stands, MacDonald suggested U of C students would pay close to twice the price of SAIT students.

"When a U-pass was implemented at the University of Washington, the first thing they did was double parking costs," explained MacDonald. "That’s how they paid for it. SAIT is paying most of their cost. They wanted to pay."

MacDonald explained that SAIT’s plan was to increase parking costs so that students would be discouraged from driving their cars to school. They offered the U-pass as a solution to students.

The U of C SU hopes to present referendum in the spring that will open the question of a U-pass to student approval.

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