Winnipeg student associations push for yearly transit pass

With student support, U-Pass could be available as early as next year, sources say

  • The UWSA will hold a referendum on the U-Pass during their byelections from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1. For about $200, the pass would provide students with unlimited access to Winnipeg Transit services during the fall and winter semesters. – Kaitlyn Emslie Farrell

Student associations at several Winnipeg universities are aggressively pursuing the possible creation of an annual transit pass.

The Universal Transit Pass, or U-Pass, would provide eligible students with unlimited access to Winnipeg Transit services during the fall and winter semesters, in exchange for a tuition fee increase of an estimated $150 to $200 for the year.

Zach Fleisher, vice-president advocate for the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, said student associations in Winnipeg have been working on the U-Pass for nearly 15 years.

“With the construction of the rapid transit corridor, it’s a prime time to emphasize transit in the city and encourage its usage among post-secondary students,” said Fleisher.

The UWSA is teaming up with the University of Manitoba Student’s Union and Student Association Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface (AECUSB) to see the project to fruition.

The associations will hold referenda to vote on the addition of the mandatory U-Pass fee.

If students support it, associations will work to have the province and the city subsidize the pass, he said.

Opt-outs will be available for students who are physically unable to use transit due to disabilities, but the associations are still discussing the possibility of other opt-outs, he said.

They hope to work with Winnipeg Transit to coordinate park-and-rides for out-of-town students.

UMSU president Bilan Arte said the group conducted an eight-month survey in 2009 to establish what students would need from the U-Pass and what they could pay for it.

It’s a bargaining tool to talk about services and routing and talk about a better transportation system.

Bilan Arte, president, University of Manitoba Students’ Union

Establishing a U-Pass would help give students a say in what happens at Winnipeg Transit, Arte said.

“This isn’t a decision a student union gets to make. It is a decision students get to make. It’s a bargaining tool to talk about services and routing and talk about a better transportation system.”

Nicolas Audette, president of AECUSB, said many students are excited about the possibility of a U-Pass. He stressed AECUSB is keeping a neutral ground on the matter.

“We’re not for or against it,” said Audette. “It’s something that could be good for students, and why not let the students decide if they’re in favour of it or not.”

While Fleisher, Arte and Audette say responses from student bodies have been positive, some students have misgivings about the creation of the U-Pass.

Eric Reece, a fourth-year U of W English student, lives far from campus and drives to school every day.

He disagrees with the likely lack of opt-out options for the U-Pass.

“If I drive and buy a parking pass, it’s ridiculous to have to pay for a bus pass against my will,” said Reece.

“It’s a good thing to purchase if you need it, but not if it’s included in tuition.”

The UWSA and UMSU will hold the referendum during their byelections, with U of W students voting from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1, and U of M students from Oct. 29 to Nov. 16.

AECUSB has yet to schedule a referendum, but expects to hold one this year.

Published in Volume 67, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 3, 2012)

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