Have your say on the U-Pass

By Salima Stanley-Bhanji

Students will vote again on the U-Pass in the upcoming Students’ Union General Election.

Students will decide whether or not to continue the program at $60 per term for 2004/05, with $2 increments for two years for a total term of three years.

Calgary Transit Business Analyst David MacDonald thinks the agreement is very comparable to what was negotiated in 2002.

"It’s pretty similar to what we’ve agreed to in the past," said MacDonald.

However, SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Gavin Preston finds the increase from $50 to $64 over five years unreasonable.

"There has been a 20 per cent increase in two years," said Preston. "I don’t find that acceptable, to be honest. We’re stuck in a situation where whatever Calgary Transit brings us we have to deal with."

Calgary Transit originally proposed a five-year contract, but the Students’ Legislative Council debated on whether or not a two- or three-year term would be more appropriate.

"The electorate changes," explained Preston, who favoured a two-year arrangement. "We’ll have people go through university without voting. The U-Pass needs to be reaffirmed by students."

The majority, however, favoured a three-year term in order to lock in pricing.

"I am in favour of three years because of inflation," said Events Commissioner Greg Clayton.

Director of Ancillary Services Peter Fraser said it was "an uphill battle all the way." However, Fraser is relatively pleased with the proposal that was brought forward.

"It is a very good comparative pricing option," said Fraser. "The fact that they were willing to offer a three-year deal at $2 a year escalation is very positive, although I was disappointed that I couldn’t talk them into letting us expand the opt-out a little bit."

Without an opt-out clause, every U of C student pays for a pass even if their residential area is not serviced by Calgary Transit.

"There’s no exemptions, no opt-outs," stated Preston. "Just an increase in the fee, which seems to have occurred because there is increased ridership–which should have been pre-empted."

At the SLC meeting, Fraser reported 19,000 of a possible 22,000 stickers were issued last term.

"Three thousand students out there did not choose to pick it up," said Fraser.

But according to Fraser, even students who do not use the pass or obtain their value from the pass, indirectly benefit.

"Those who are driving to the university are still reaping the benefits of the U-Pass by parking rates not going up so high and by being able to park relatively close to campus," said Fraser. "If in fact there is no U-Pass, I would think we’d have a significant shortage of parking in the fall."

While Calgary Transit has not budged in response to the university’s request for an opt-out, they have extended U-Pass availability to the spring and summer semester for graduate students.

While Fraser is optimistic students will vote for the U-Pass, Preston is skeptical about the program at its current cost and with the absence of an opt-out.

"This is the best ‘deal’ we could have got, but it isn’t a deal," said Preston, a frequent transit user who would vote no.

The SU General Election will take place during the week of Feb. 9, with unofficial results announced Fri., Feb. 13.

Student representatives at the Tue., Jan. 13 Student Legislative Council meeting voted unanimously to send the matter to referendum.

After the introduction of the U-Pass in 2002 at a cost of $50 per student per semester, the pass was increased to $56 per term for the current school year.

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