The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) is holding a referendum later this month for undergraduate students to vote on the renewal of their Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) agreement, which is slated to expire in April 2018.

The SFSS and other student societies in the province successfully negotiated to extend the current contract for student passes with local transit provider TransLink until the end of 2019.

SFU undergraduate students will continue to pay $41 per month to the student society for their transit pass if they vote ‘yes’ to extend the expiry date of the U-Pass program and agree to continue paying the fee. It is necessary for the society to put any change regarding a fee levied from students to referendum, according to Jimmy Dhesa, vice-president of student services.

“If the referendum question fails, the SFSS will no longer be able to collect the student society fee for the U-Pass,” Dhesa explained. “Consequently, the SFSS will not be able to accept the contract extension, and students will lose their U-Pass starting May 1.”

In order for the vote for the referendum question to be valid, a five per cent turnout from undergraduate students is necessary under society bylaws, which amounts to approximately 1,270 undergraduate students.

The cost of the U-Pass has increased over the past two years from $38 to $41 each month that a student is enrolled in classes, an increase of $1.50 each year. However, the current referendum question will not entail a fee increase and students will continue to pay $41 come next year.

“The SFSS has never had difficulty finding almost unanimous support for this program.” – Jimmy Dhesa, SFSS vice-president student services

According to Dhesa, the U-Pass is important to students because SFU is recognized as a commuter campus and having the student transit pass reduces a great deal of the expenses to students. The student pass costs only a fraction of a regular three-zone transit pass that TransLink currently prices at $172 per month.

The society is working towards getting the word out so that the referendum can meet its required voter turnout.

“The SFSS has never had difficulty finding almost unanimous support for this program,” said Dhesa. “The U-Pass is something that nearly everyone counts on for their transportation needs.”

Students who do not use public transportation are often unable to opt-out of the U-Pass program, unless they meet other requirements that make them exempt. Dhesa explained that “as with many social programs, everyone must pay into the program to make its benefits available. The U-Pass program and its prices are only possible because everyone contributes to it,” he emphasized.

Dhesa also noted that TransLink gives the university and the student society a quota on how much opt-outs they can give. Hence, the regulation is established to meet TransLink’s demands.

Online voting on the referendum question will take place from November 21–23 with the results being finalized on November 24, 2017.