I can’t believe it: BC Local News reported earlier today that the Kwantlen Students Association (KSA) missed the deadline to hold a referendum to decide if they want a U-Pass in January.
KSA Chair of the Executive Board Matthew Todd told newswire BC Local News that they are pushing for a custom deal with TransLink on the pass, which SFU and UBC students currently enjoy at $25 a month.* The new U-Pass program could (referendum permitting) cost other post-secondary students, including Kwantlen, Douglas and Emily Carr, $30 a month.
If an agreement can be reached, Kwantlen students can vote in a referendum in February and could have a U-Pass by summer 2011.
The KSA’s criticisms of the proposed U-Pass reflect those I’ve previously read about the new BC U-Pass program and about the trial U-Pass programs at the Universities of Ottawa and Carleton.
For example, Todd said the KSA wants Kwantlen students to have the option of opting in or out of the U-Pass. Currently, UBC and SFU students can only opt out of the U-Pass under a few circumstances, which include being enrolled in one class that is less than five weeks in duration and if you do not live in Metro Vancouver and do not take courses offered by the university and its affiliated colleges. As the News Editor of UBC’s student newspaper last year, I did not hear a lot of complaints about not being able to opt out of the U-Pass.
Todd said that the U-Pass would be useless to about 1100 out of 18,000 Kwantlen students, as they live less than a kilometre from one of the campuses. In other words, only six per cent of Kwantlen students wouldn’t benefit from the U-Pass (give or take a few per cent for error). I don’t think TransLink is going to allow massive opt-outs if only a few students would do it—and they shouldn’t have to.
Look at it this way: a one-zone monthly bus pass from TransLink costs $81. That’s significantly more expensive than the $30 that Kwantlen, Emily Carr and Langara students would be paying for a three-zone pass. Heck, it is probably significantly more expensive than any price increases that could occur over the next few years.
If you drive to school or live fairly close to campus, and want an opt-out option: think about a few things. First, sustainability, and promotion of it. Do you drive 10 minutes to school when you could just bus? How much is a parking pass on campus? Second, convenience and safety. What if you want to get somewhere (the bar, a Canucks game, a concert) and driving is inconvenient and parking is expensive and scarce?
I urge all students from other post-secondary institutions to vote ‘yes’ for a U-Pass. The system is not perfect, but it’s the best we have. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. The province has promised a province-wide U-Pass, and people want to make deals and add extra features? This program is already long overdue for non-UBC and SFU students, and the pros far outweigh the cons.
I am a UBC student, and I can tell you: the U-Pass has saved me tons of money at the expense of TransLink. It is extremely useful and I use it every day, even when I don’t go to campus or work.
I understand that whether TransLink will be able to fund the new U-Pass program is a concern; regardless, it is up to students to tell them and the BC Liberals that they want it.
*It also seems that, aside from the desire for a custom deal, internal struggles within the KSA might have delayed the referendum. But student politics, and the scandals that accompany it, is not the point of my argument—just a specialty of mine.