U of M needs to get up to public transit speed

Graphic by Aichelle Sayuno

Getting to and from the university is an element of the educational process that nearly every single student must take into account when budgeting their expenses. Being a university student is expensive enough as it is, why wouldn’t we want to cut the costs of commuting, too?

When I arrived on the U of M campus this year, all I could think of upon hearing that there was no U-Pass system was that I had returned to the Dark Ages of universities and university student unions.

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), in Abbotsford, BC. UFV’s Student Union Society helped to develop and institute UFV’s U-Pass system over four years ago.

UFV is one of over a dozen universities in BC that have versions of a U-Pass system that subsidizes the cost of public transportation so university students can commute more affordably.

Meanwhile, in Manitoba both the University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg’s student unions have been unable to make it happen.

Throughout my entire undergraduate degree I used my U-Pass to get to and from my classes, to get groceries, and to attend community events. I did all these things for a fraction of the cost I would have if I had had to pay the going rate for monthly public transit passes.

Of course, I am not blind to the argument that there are those students who own vehicles and would prefer to spend the money on gas and insurance to have the convenience of driving to school. However, if you are an out-of-towner or far from public transit options and prefer to drive, I know for a fact that you are not exempt from the cost of paying to park at the U of M.

There are 12 park-and-ride locations offered by Winnipeg Transit, one of which is located quite near the U of M by bus. You could save on the cost of parking at the university by taking the bus that short distance between the free park and ride and the university – the cost of the bus ride subsidized by the U-Pass system.

While someone might say that no one would take the extra effort to save on parking, I know that they would. I had several vehicle-owning university student friends who would drive in from out of town, park at a park-and-ride, and arrive at the university on the bus, thus saving themselves money on parking expenses and saving themselves the aggravation of trying to find a parking spot even remotely near where they needed to be on campus.

The costs associated with the proposed U-Pass system in Winnipeg is the largest point of contention for most students, especially those who don’t use public transit. For those who do use public transit, the cost of the U-Pass per semester would be minimal compared to $61.60 they are already paying to Winnipeg Transit every month for their university student transit pass.

Those who don’t use public transit will be subsidizing the cost of those who do use public transit – and this makes many vehicle-driving university students angry. To this I must ask: why is it only in this instance you are making such a fuss?

U of M student members of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) currently pay approximately $90 per semester to UMSU and yet only 7.3 per cent of those students voted in the current UMSU executive in March of this year. One, you have no right to complain about what UMSU is doing right now if you were a student, but didn’t vote in March. And two, people pay for things they don’t use to their full potential all the time.

The fact of the matter is there are systems put in place at the university that cost money, but they are deemed to be for the greater good of university students, and so if you don’t want to come out and play – that’s on you.

Given the success of U-Pass systems at other universities, the only thing that anybody should be mad about is the fact that University of Winnipeg Student Association vice-president advocate Zach Fleisher recently told U of W’s The Uniter that student associations in Winnipeg have been trying to get a U-Pass system for the past 15 years. But only now are these initiatives starting to really see the light of day.

Because I have experienced the positive effects of an implemented U-Pass system, I urge you to vote “yes” for the U-Pass.

Grace Romund is the Copy Editor for the Manitoban

4 Comments on "U of M needs to get up to public transit speed"

  1. Bruce Haddad | October 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm |

    The idea that students who drive will be able to benefit from Park and Ride is wrong. There are only 377 free park and ride spots in the entire city and none of them are listed as having electrical plug in. If we assume that half the park and ride spots in the city aren’t used on any given day, that would leave less than 200 spots for U of M students who because of UPass decided to start driving to park and ride. For a university of 28,000 students, that’s just not enough capacity.

    Then, the park and ride does not have electricity. So from December to February, those student park and riders can look forward to returning to cars that won’t start.

    So how does that help students who drive? It doesn’t. UMSU needs to leave students alone. People didn’t vote for UMSU because they’re not interested in students playing politician. We just want to study in peace.

  2. This article is very insulting to those who choose to drive to university. Just because you do not like the cost of taking the bus does not mean other students should be forced to buy your bus passes for you.

    The author of this article does not understand the reality of owning a car and using it to get to and from university in Winnipeg. The article also very deceptively tries to paint a picture of the U-Pass being a benefit to people who drive to the university because they will “save on parking”, when in fact the compromise presented, parking at park-and-ride locations, is completely unacceptable for a number of reasons.

    First of all, as one commentor has already pointed out, there are no electrical outlets at the park-and-ride locations. This is not acceptable in Winnipeg due to the months long cold weather.

    Secondly, it will waste a considerable amount of student’s time to park and ride the bus. Using a VERY conservative estimate of waiting 7 minutes for the bus and 6 minutes for the ride, that’s at least 30 minutes per day wasted waiting for and riding the bus. That’s 2.5 hours per week. Over Sept – April, that’s around 65 HOURS (2.71 DAYS) wasted. My point here is that one of the reasons I choose to drive to school and pay for a parking pass is because it is efficient, which means more time for me to study.

    The article also makes it sound like fiding a parking spot is a huge chore, referring to looking for one as an “aggravation”. This does not apply to thousands of students who drive to university. We have chosen to work hard and save money for a parking pass, which ensures that there will always be a free parking spot for us in our designated lot.

    Next the article goes on to complain about the cost of student bus passes (which are already subsidized and partially tax deductible, I might add). At $61.60 per month, that comes to $492 for two semesters (Sept – April). That’s almost exactly how much my Sept – April parking pass costs which I worked hard for and budgeted accordingly to afford. Likewise, if a student wishes to ride the bus to school all year, then they should be personally responsible for managing their finances to afford it.

    The article next asks students who choose to drive “why is it only in this instance you are making such a fuss?” and chastises those who did not pay attention to the school politics last winter term by proclaiming rudely that we “have no right” to an opinion on the matter.

    Ignoring the insulting tone, invalidation of our democratic rights, and the $90/semester fee STRAWMAN argument, I will explain exactly why I am choosing to make “such a fuss”. It is because it is wrong to force me to work for X number of hours at my job to pay for another student’s bus passes. It’s as simple as that.

    What this arcticle comes down to is that the author simply doesn’t want to pay for the transportation services they use in the city, and instead wants other people to pay for it for them. This socialist attitude of entitlement greatly disturbs me, and I will not stand for it. If you want to ride the bus all year, go and work for two weeks to pay for it yourself, just like everyone else does.

  3. Bannatyne Campus | November 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

    I voted in the UMSU elections last year. Thank you for affirming my right to complain.

  4. I have done some research on parking statistics at the university. I will share the statistics below and calculate roughly how much the U-Pass would cost students who do not use the bus to get to university.

    Number of parking passes sold for the 2012-2013 year: 3050
    Number of pay-and-display parking spots in U + Q lots: 130
    Residence parking spaces: 301

    Total minimum number of students who drive to the U of M: 3481

    At $170 per academic year, the total minimum cost to students who drive to university and therefore do not need a bus pass = $591,770.00 – Yes, over HALF A MILLION DOLLARS.

    But wait, there’s more. Many, many students choose to carpool to the university on a daily basis. It is not uncommon to see cars with 3 – 4 students commuting to university in them. Using an extremely conservative estimate of one third of parking passes being used for carpooling with one additional student, this brings to total up to 4498 students who will be forced to buy a bus pass they do not need.

    At $170 per academic year, the cost to non-bus riding students = $764,660.00 – YES, over THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS.

    And in reality, I’m sure the cost will be much more, given how conservative the carpooling estimate was.

    Even if you ride the bus to university, it is immoral to vote yes on the U-Pass. It will cost students who drive to university hundreds of thousands of dollars per year ON TOP OF what they already pay for parking at the university.

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