Say no to the U-Pass

Graphic by Aichelle Sayuno

UMSU, the voice of the students, has found another way to make attending the University of Manitoba even more expensive. Though few students are aware of it, we are all going to the polls to vote whether or not we should all be levied nearly $200 a year so that all students, bus users or not, may have a universal bus pass.

UMSU has claimed countless reasons that the U-Pass is a “must have” for university students, citing reduced greenhouse emissions, improved parking, and shorter line ups for bus passes as just a few. Additionally, UMSU believes that being one of the only universities without a universal bus pass leaves us at a competitive disadvantage to other universities. Though I understand where UMSU gets this golden image of a bus friendly campus, I still find myself puzzled by why they feel now is the time to force students into buying a subjectively expensive, universal bus pass.

Most university students are already strapped for cash in more than one way. Many students work full or part-time to make ends meet, and still end up going into debt. Though UMSU believes this is because the University of Manitoba demands too much for tuition (even though Manitoba has some of the lowest tuition rates in the country), UMSU is collecting over $85 from students each semester, more if you choose to take spring or summer classes or if you are forced to opt-in to UMSU Health and Dental. With the addition of the U-Pass, the mandatory UMSU fee would nearly double, to $172.50 per semester.

Now as a student who has chosen to some years take the bus and other years drive, I understand that both have their pros and cons. Taking the bus is cheap, allows you get things done while making your daily commute, and lets you feel good about doing your fair share for the environment. Driving, though more expensive, offers much more flexibility through the day, and allows you to avoid the hustle and bustle of Winnipeg Transit. Regardless of which option you prefer, should a student be forced to pay into either system? No. Students should be allowed to pay their hard earned dollars into whichever system works better for them. If UMSU gets their way students will be unfairly forced to pay into the transit system. I’ve never seen a movement of this type to subsidize car insurance costs, or parking pass prices for those students who chose to drive, and I’m sure I never will.

UMSU swears that the U-Pass will drive students to take the bus, reducing parking demands, and lowering the price of parking passes, making it a benefit for students who drive as well. Firstly, I believe students who drive choose to do so because they choose to spend their disposable income on a car, and its operating costs, and ultimately having a universal bus pass would not limit the use of their car. Secondly, I do not anticipate parking pass prices falling by even close to the $170 fee this bus pass will cost, meaning their overall costs will increase regardless. The only reason these fees will still be levied from them is to subsidize the cost of the U-Pass to other students who are already using the bus.

Though a universal bus pass has worked well for many other cities across the country, a piece of information UMSU is always quick to bring up, Winnipeg unfortunately is unlike many of them.

Winnipeg has a transit system that was put in place over 100 years ago, and though it has gone through many changes in those years, is still one that needs gross amounts of reform before it is ready for a universal bus pass. Busses run at limited times throughout the day and provide routes that are inefficient for many students, taking hours a day to make a simple commute. The price students are being asked to pay to Winnipeg Transit will not provide the funds they need to improve on this system, and will only hurt an already struggling company.

The U-Pass will benefit some students unquestionably, but is it fair that this limited benefit come at a cost to all students, users or not? I truly hope students will realize that this is a bad deal and take a strong “NO” stance to the upcoming referendum.

Foster Lyle is the Business Manager for the Manitoban.

3 Comments on "Say no to the U-Pass"

  1. Although many universities across the country HAVE U-Passes, many students are trying to get rid of the U-Pass program. It works on the assumption that a very small percentage of students will actually use transit – that’s straight from transit. They know that they can offer a discounted pass because ultimately a lot of students will pay for it and not use it. Unless a university is on a Light Rail Transit route, or has a massive transit hub with many different efficient routes connecting students to their school along with homes and work – they just don’t use it. If this were decades ago where students lived at home with their parents and just went to school, this might work – but students have jobs, after-class volunteer work, children to take to daycare, grocery shopping, etc to do as well, and until transit becomes more convienent than driving, students should be given the choice to take expensive cars or inefficent transit.

    Perhaps when University presidents and department heads give up their cars and take transit exclusively, they’ll see the problems with the U-Pass system. When even people who work for Transit don’t USE transit, how can anyone force someone else to?

  2. I am 100% against the idea of subsidizing bus passes by forcing all students to pay $170+ per year (and it is stated that it will increase each year with inflation).

    This article is correct that I will not choose to take the bus even if I have a free bus pass for the school year. I work hard to afford the luxury of a car both because it helps free my time for additional studies (the bus system is horribly inefficient) and because I need it to get to work (I work just outside the city – and even if I didn’t I would still choose to own and drive a car because of how much it frees my time). It wouldn’t make sense for me to take the bus and leave my car at home. I pay to insure and maintain my car, and if I’m not using it I’m wasting time and money.

    I do not expect others to help me pay for my gas or my parking pass at the university, and I would never ask anyone to either. It’s my decision to drive a car and my responsibility to pay for the costs associated with using it to attend university. Likewise, if someone chooses to take the bus to university, that is their personal responsiblity.

    Being forced to buy a bus pass that I do not NEED or WANT makes me very angry. This would mean I am literally being forced to work X number of hours at my job to pay for someone else’s transportation.

    I will now comment on the “countless reasons” listed above that UMSU has claimed as reasons for imposing the U-Pass:

    – “Reduced greenhouse emissions”

    As I’ve already explained above, I will not drive my car less even if I am given a free bus pass (and I am willing to bet most people who drive to university feel the same way), thus it will not change the amount of pollution I produce traveling to and from university. Also, it is not appropriate for UMSU to impose its environmental ideologies on others by taxing them, nevermind the fact that the claim of reduced greenhouse gas emissions is dubious. Show me a study.

    – “Improved parking”

    What would be the improvement? There is nothing wrong with parking at the University of Manitoba (aside from the high cost and the looming threat of Bomber fans taking your spot on weekends – but that’s another matter altogether). If you have a parking pass, then you can always find a parking spot. It doesn’t matter to me if less people show up to park.

    – “Shorter line ups for bus passes”

    Oh wow, seriously? Sounds more like a problem with how bus passes are sold then a valid argument to charge the student body a mandatory $4 million + per year.

    Here, I have a much better idea. How about all of the people who want to take the bus for the school year register on a list with UMSU before classes start, then UMSU negotiates a group discount on Sept – April bus passes and the cost is split by all of the people who registered for the bus pass discount program. This would be fair because then it would be opt-in. It would benefit the public transportation users and not impose a socialist transportation tax on those who do not want or need to ride the city bus.

  3. David Scammell | November 1, 2012 at 1:56 pm |

    Like it or not this is a democracy, and the referendum will determine the course of action. In my own opinion, I think an opt-out option would be beneficial for those who do not wish to use transit with the price of the U-pass determined by how many students stay opted in.

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