SFU undergraduate students voted overwhelmingly to keep their Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) for another two years in a referendum this week that saw the largest voter turnout in recent history.

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) announced on November 24 that the referendum asking students if they wanted to renew their current agreement with local transit provider TransLink passed with 96 per cent approval. The turnout was the largest in recent SFSS history with 7,242 undergraduate students casting their ballot online.

“The SFSS is extremely thrilled with the results of the U-Pass referendum,” said Jimmy Dhesa, vice-president of student services. “The results give the SFSS a clear mandate to continue advocating for long-term affordable and reliable public transit to all SFU campuses.”

The renewal of the existing agreement means that students will continue to pay $41 per month to the undergraduate student society for their transit pass until the end of 2019. Earlier this year, post-secondary student societies in the province negotiated an extension of the current contract slated to terminate in April 2018.

The outcome recorded that 2,446 more students voted in favour of keeping the U-Pass compared to the last time a referendum was held in spring 2016. According to Dhesa, the previous vote generated a turnout of 4,785 voters with 94 per cent voting in favour of a fee increase.

“Students voted in record numbers,” Dhesa noted, adding that this week’s referendum showed support for the U-Pass service has never been higher.

The cost of the U-Pass has increased over the past two years from $38 to $41 per month which amounts to a $1.50 increase per year. However, the extension of the existing agreement did not entail a fee increase.

“The results indicate a clear and growing consensus of support for the U-Pass among students,” added Dhesa. “It is clear that students want to see this program continued and are glad to see it happen without any fee increases.”

In order for the referendum to be valid under society bylaws, the vote required a five per cent turnout from undergraduate students, which amounted to approximately 1,270 votes cast. It was necessary for the society to put the question to referendum since it regarded a change in student fees.

The SFSS is now turning its attention to its goal of negotiating a long-term contract with TransLink and the provincial government that establishes price stability for the pass in years to come.

“With this referendum passed the SFSS is excited to shift focus back to continued advocacy and efforts towards a long term and affordable U-Pass service that extends beyond the end of this current contract,” Dhesa explained. “The [SFSS board of directors] will continue to advocate and lobby efforts that target transit to best position students in future contract negotiations.”

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