Postsecondary students across Metro Vancouver will be voting in the new year on whether they want to continue with the U-Pass B.C. program.
The universal transit pass initiative provides students with system-wide access to buses, SkyTrain, and the SeaBus at a discount rate.
The province, TransLink, public postsecondary institutions, and student unions have agreed to renew the program in the region after the current agreement expires in March.
Under the new three-year deal, which still requires student approval, the monthly price of the universal transit pass would rise to $35 from $30 starting in May. The cost would then increase to $36.75 in May 2014 and finally to $38 from May 2015 to April 2016.
Students at the 10 Metro Vancouver institutions taking part in the program are required to pay for the pass through their student fees. Those schools include UBC, SFU, Capilano University, Langara College, Vancouver Community College, Douglas College, Emily Carr, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, BCIT, and Nicola Valley Institute of Technology.
Student leaders acknowledge the proposed price increase is not ideal and say they pushed for the cost to stay the same for all three years of the renewed program. However, they say the increase reflects the rising cost of transit fares and that using the U-Pass would still be cheaper than purchasing regular adult fare cards.
Jillian Griffin, a Douglas College student and co-chair of the U-Pass advisory committee, lauded the success of the U-Pass program.
“I know a lot of students who depend on the U-Pass program and who use it, and not just to get to and from school. It’s part of their daily life,” Griffin told the Straight by phone.
“Over the past year, student associations have advocated strongly for the U-Pass B.C. program to continue at the most affordable rates for students,” she said.
Referendums on continuing with the U-Pass program take place at the public postsecondary institutions in Metro Vancouver from January to March. The votes are to be administered by the student unions at each institution according to their individual bylaws.
Students at institutions that vote against renewing the program will no longer have access to the U-Pass as of April 1.