Yes or No: referendum to take place during URSU elections
Author: alex johnson – contributor
Students will soon be deciding whether or not to have a U-Pass at the University of Regina.
If passed, a U-Pass would provide all U of R students with unlimited access to the public transit system, both at the school and outside of it. The program is for all registered on-campus U of R students, and if successful, it will come into effect January 2016. Those living on campus, outside of city limits, and within 1 km will be eligible to opt-out.
The Regina Green Ride Transit Network passed their U-Pass petition in November 2014 with over 700 mandatory signatures, which is five per cent of the U of R population. Students will now vote in a referendum on the U-Pass during the URSU elections, which are to be held March 16-19, 2015. Students will have to decide whether or not a U-Pass will be implemented at the U of R. Forty post-secondary institutions across Canada use a U-Pass or a similar system.
The cost of the pass, which is still being deliberated with the City of Regina, will be between $70 and $90. This cost will be included in tuition as a per-semester levy, similar to the U of R gym pass. Transit fares for the City of Regina were inflated by 25 cents on January 1 of this year, and are expected to have similar hikes in 2016 and 2017. Post secondary bus passes currently cost $65 per month, and by January 2017 will increase to $78. In comparison to January of 2014, when the cost was $53, by 2017 the total price hike will increase by 48 per cent.
Director of Regina Green Ride Transit Network David Vanderberg says, “With the bus fare increase on January 1 and the lack of parking on campus, students are sick and tired of their current options to get to their classes.”
Also, the new residence buildings have eliminated 400 parking spots. Students, numerous supportive staff, faculty, and administration at the University hope that the U-Pass might be the answer to their problems.
Vanderberg claims that the “U-Pass has faced little opposition during its petitioning.” U of R President Vianne Timmons and Provost Dr. Tom Chase have both signed the petition. They believe that the U-Pass supports sustainability on campus and is a great alternative method of transportation. Chase supports the U-Pass because he believes more people should use public transport coming to the U of R.
“We really want to encourage people to consider using public transit as they come to and leave campus,” Chase explained.
He went on, saying “We have parking challenges on this campus, like just about every Canadian university, and we’re trying to encourage those for whom it’s possible, and I’m one of them, to use public transit rather than bring cars to campus.”
The U-Pass program will also include a Park and Ride option. Students will have access to free parking in various parking lots throughout the city, where they can then take shuttles to the University. This would eliminate paying for on-campus parking, and the time consuming effort of finding a spot. For those who feel they live in areas of the city where riding the transit system is not necessarily their best option, Park and Ride will provide a more safe and cost-efficient way to arrive to and from class. Park and Ride will come into effect alongside the U-Pass program in January 2016.
In the past, these sorts of referendums have failed at the U of R, however, the Green Ride Transit Network remains confident. Vanderberg explains that “a lot has changed since 2009,” the date of the last referendum. He went on, saying “Three huge things have changed that make us very confident that this is a good time to do this… and that students actually want it.” These changes include University administration support, with possible central financial support, URSU on board with advertising and support, as opposed to their neutral or opposing stance in the past, and, lastly, “students want this,” said Vanderberg.
A mandatory U-Pass does not necessarily guarantee success. Although changes will certainly happen, it is possible that parking may not be freed up. Just like how everyone pays for the gym, but not everyone uses it.
Students can vote online for or against the U-Pass, in conjunction with the URSU general elections held this March 16-19. The specific ballot question is still uncertain, however, Vanderberg said “It will be along the lines of ‘Do you support the implementation of U-Pass for all members of the URSU at the cost of $70 to $90 per semester?’” The city cannot finalize a specific cost until there is a “yes” vote for the U-Pass.
This vote is important. Voting in a U-Pass will have both positive and negative consequences. Students should do their research, and become more involved with the upcoming referendum to help shape, criticize, and ultimately decide on an issue that will affect their fellow students, university, city, and ultimately, their mode of transportation.