To purchase an adult transit pass for four months in Calgary costs a whopping $332. However, full-time graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Calgary — those taking three or more half courses a semester -- are all assessed an $85 fee as part of tuition, and in return receive a U-Pass which grants them four months of access to Calgary Transit.
The student U-Pass is not subsidized by the U of C, or Calgary Transit, but by students themselves.
The reduced price offered to students is predicated on the belief that while everyone will pay the fee, not every student will use the service, and therefore the students that don't use the system subsidize the students that do, explained Calgary Transit business strategies manager Koji Miyaji.
In the current program spring and summer students, as well as part-time students, can't get a U-Pass.
The university is working to change this, said Students' Union vice-president external Kay She.
The university administration had approached the SU with a tentative plan to expand U-Pass coverage to both those registered in spring/summer classes, as well as those classified as part time students. Several universities in Canada already have coverage for these students, including the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta.
However, there is more than one option to be considered, explained She.
"The opt-in group would have a premium, for example of 25 per cent more, to add to the subsidization of the process," said She.
"The 25 per cent is only an estimate, ultimately it's Calgary Transit that's going to be making those final numbers. But we have proposed different ways to make the opt-in possible and viable for Calgary Transit."
The SU has also considered the possibility of the program being mandatory for all part-time students, she explained.
"We are only beginning to gauge how many students would like that, and the university is pursuing further surveying methods to really gauge students, to see what they would like to see in the U-Pass, if all part-time students would like to be included in the mandatory U-Pass fee."
While the university is consulting with the SU on the issue, the U-Pass program ultimately falls under the purview of university administration, and in the end it is up to them to decide if or how the expansion will happen.
Miyaji reinforced that any expansion must be self-sufficient, because neither the university nor Calgary Transit subsidize the program.