U-Pass up for debate

By Salima Bhanji

The U-Pass is up for renegotiation this October, and students may see a higher price.

In 2002, the U-Pass was introduced based on a two-year agreement with Calgary Transit. Last year, students paid $50 a semester and this year it increased to $56 a semester.

"We are jointly committed to the two years and it is our intention to renegotiate a package deal that we can present to the students for a yes/no vote in next spring’s election period," explained Director of Ancillary Services Peter Fraser.

While over 18,000 U of C students have a U-Pass, there are concerns Calgary Transit will be increasing the cost.

Student Union Vice-President Operations and Finance Gavin Preston is concerned this year’s increase is an indication of further price increases ahead.

"If pricing gets too high I don’t think students will vote for the U-Pass," said Preston.

At the same time, Preston said many students won’t vote for the pass because they don’t use or have access to Calgary Transit. Under the present program, all students are required to pay for the U-Pass, regardless of whether they use Calgary Transit.

"There were some serious problems because people who weren’t even getting Calgary Transit were still paying for a U-Pass," said Preston. "It is ridiculous for people who live in Springbank or Airdrie and have to drive in. One of the first things we will be bringing to the table is an opt-out for students who are not serviced by Calgary Transit."

Calgary Transit Business Analyst David MacDonald maintains Calgary Transit doesn’t have to be available at a student’s doorstep to be useful.

"Nothing stops students from driving to a station and taking the train in," MacDonald explained. "They don’t have to park on campus."

There are a large number of students, such as those living in residence, who don’t use the U-Pass but still pay for it each semester.

"There still is that segment out there that doesn’t even opt to pick it up," said Fraser. "But these people get an advantage with parking."

Preston agrees the U-Pass indirectly benefits many of those who don’t use it by reducing traffic and parking problems on campus.

Since the U-Pass’s inception, Calgary Transit statistics show C-Train ridership has increased by an average of 30 per cent.

MacDonald assures Calgary Transit service improvements are scheduled for the near future.

"We are adding benefits to students by increasing the hours of the C-Train service," said MacDonald. "We are committed to that."

With the opening of the Dalhousie station in December, C-Train hours will be extended so that trains operate for more than 22 hours every day. As well, MacDonald reports once the Dalhousie station opens there will be two more trains to deal with the capacity issue. Furthermore, in June/July 2004, the C-Train will be extending its service further south.

But MacDonald did not indicate how the improvements will affect the U-Pass’ cost.

While minimizing the cost of the pass will be a central issue in negotiations, Fraser said many are asking for a spring/summer pass. He predicts the upcoming negotiations will also focus on introducing a separate pass for part-time students and faculty.


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