Both the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association and the University of Manitoba Students’ Union have received mandates to proceed with negotiations for a subsidized bus pass.
At a recent byelection, 826 U of W students voted “yes” to creating a UPass, allowing the UWSA to start negotiating with the city to develop the subsidized bus pass, which would cost students $100 or less each semester.
Only 188 of the 1,020 students that voted opposed the pass, with six spoiling their ballots.
The byelection had a 9.5 per cent turnout of eligible voters - the highest turnout in a decade for a UWSA byelection.
Zach Fleisher, UWSA vice-president advocate, was pleased with the vote, noting the association advertised the referendum in the paper, online and through student email.
“We put it forward in a democratic election and did our best to let students know,” he said.
However, the pass is nowhere near finalized, as the UWSA is still developing an opt-out clause, Fleisher said.
“Right now we are focusing on those outside the service area and people with disabilities being able to opt out,” he said, adding that all students are encouraged to use sustainable transportation.
Meanwhile, at the U of M, 74 per cent of students voted in favour of the pass, giving UMSU a mandate of negotiating a pass for $85 or less a semester.
“Our negotiations thus far with transit not only focused on a fair price for students, but also service improvements to make transit more accessible and timely,” said UMSU vice-president advocacy Jennifer Black.
“The scope of this project is difficult for all parties involved, but the end result will be great for the city and students.”
More than 7,015 votes were cast, totaling a turnout of 27 per cent of eligible voters, the highest turnout in 15 years for UMSU, according to Black.
Coun. Jenny Gerbasi said the results give the two schools a strong case to open negotiations with the city and province to help fund the passes.
“I’ve been waiting 14 years for this bus pass to happen,” she said. “This is a feasible project, but it just the first step. This is the first time the student unions have had a vote of support.
“A process of advocacy is just beginning,” she added.
The UPass could significantly increase ridership and replace the use of automobiles, Gerbasi said.
Studies from other jurisdictions show the passes create a culture of ridership that extends beyond the years a student spends in school. It also means less wear and tear on the roads, Gerbasi said.
Red River College Students’ Association says it will not move forward on the UPass, which had been a project of former president Garrett Meisner.
However, Meisner was removed from office in early November after being arrested at an Occupy Winnipeg rally in September, according to Michael Santarsieri, a spokesperson for the association.
Published in Volume 67, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 21, 2012)