To pass or not to pass

Oct 31, 2002, vol. 25, no. 5
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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Third-year political science student and student union representative Jan Gunn (left) is a U-PASS supporter while third-year criminology student Adam Picotte is voting against it.

To pass or not to pass: that's the question SFU students will answer during a referendum to be held November 12, 13 and 14 at all three campus locations.

After months of lobbying by the student society, the possibility of a universal transit pass for students may soon be a reality.

The pass, which would be available next spring, offers all students unlimited access to TransLink's Lower Mainland transit services for a monthly fee that would be added to student society fees and collected by the university.

The referendum question asks: “Are you in favour of increasing the Simon Fraser Student Society membership fee by an amount not to exceed $23 per month to implement a universal transit pass (U-PASS) for each student enrolled at SFU?” The regular price for a comparable student pass is $63.

For third-year criminology student Adam Picotte, the answer is a definite “no.” Although he is one of the 45 per cent of SFU students who rely exclusively on transit, he is heading up the “No to U-PASS” campaign because he objects to the fact that students will have to pay the fee whether or not they use transit. “This is really going to hurt a lot of students. There are people who can't use transit because they live in the outer regions, and it would take them three hours to get to school by bus. There are a lot of students who are struggling to make ends meet, working 30-plus hours a week to pay their tuition. They're going to feel another $300 added on to their annual fees.”

Picotte estimates there are more than 150 ride share cars at SFU, each carrying four people. “That's more than 600 people who have worked out environmentally responsible car-pooling arrange-ments. It's not right that they should have to pay this additional fee for a service they won't use. Don't get me wrong: I'd be 100 per cent behind this pass if people were given the option to opt-in.”

But “yes” advocate Jan Gunn, a third-year political science student and student union representative, says she “hasn't yet heard any compelling reasons for students not to support U-PASS. It even benefits people who want to drive: they can avoid parking hassles by leaving their cars at Park and Ride stations. You only have to take five round-trip trips a month on transit for this pass to pay for itself. And when you consider that TransLink is already hinting about a big fare increase in 2004, it's an even better deal.”

Gunn says the $23 monthly fee allows TransLink to recover its costs for the service, and is guaranteed for two years. Any subsequent fee hikes will “have to go back to the membership for a vote,” she says.

Gunn urges students, especially those who want to see transit service improved, “to get out there in droves and vote. If U-PASS is successful, it will make SFU one of the larger stakeholders in transit. It will give us a louder voice.” She says that if the U-PASS goes ahead, a transit service committee with representatives from the student society, SFU administration, and TransLink will be formed to monitor service and suggest improvements.

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