By: Helen Williams, SFU student
In a recent vote by students at participating universities, the U-pass has been extended until 2025 with a 2% increase yearly starting May 1. Our current U-pass program agreement, which started in 2010, is coming to an end and its $41 monthly rate will go up to $42.50. The referendum to vote on the continuation of the pass happens every five years. While this seems like a given for students, it is important that we keep fighting to have this program renewed every time it comes up in a referendum.
Public transit is integral to the life of most students. Students of commuter schools especially depend on the trains and buses to get to school, to work, and their leisure activities. Sure there are alternatives, like driving or biking around, but for many students, owning a car is a bigger expense than they can afford. And let’s not forget that the majority of the Lower Mainland doesn’t have the infrastructure to support wide-spread bicycle use. Public transit is the only viable option for lots of university students, and having a cheap monthly pass to rely on is a godsend. Honestly, the fact that we have to keep voting to retain the pass, and not just recognize it for the fundamental necessity that it is, is baffling.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re lucky that the recent vote agreed to keep the U-pass for another five years. But that wasn’t necessarily a forgone conclusion, and we shouldn’t take it for granted. Remember that currently, the amount that students pay for per semester (a three month pass) is slightly less than a one month, three-zone pass for the general public. Agreeing to keep this valuable program not only keeps the cost of transit lower for cash-strapped students, but it also makes increases predictably infrequent — unlike the general public who have to deal with annual fee hikes.
Another reason the U-pass is so important is its positive impact on the environment. U-pass users account for 13% of transit use in Vancouver. This has helped with decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that get released every month by reducing the number of individual vehicles on the road.
The vote to keep the U-pass for another five years shows just how much students value and support this program, despite the monthly price. Currently, 10 schools and 140,000 students depend on the U-pass. Even if the price continues to rise, hopefully the U-pass will keep pulling through so that it will be one less expense students have to worry about. Let’s make sure we never stop fighting for this valuable service.