Contract hassles delay U-Pass referendums

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      The anticipated expansion of the U-Pass program to all local publicly funded postsecondary schools starting in January 2011 has hit a snag, according to two student leaders.

      UBC’s Jeremy McElroy and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Matt Todd are doubtful that schools will be able to hold referendums on the transit program this fall because of unresolved issues in a new contract that will cover 11 institutions.

      “All the parties had sort of expected to be done with the contract negotiations at this point and planning a January rollout, but as of this time, we don’t have a final draft of the contract,” McElroy, vice president of external affairs for the UBC Alma Mater Society, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “Until all parties agree to this particular contract, no student union can go to referendum.”

      McElroy and Todd, director of external affairs for the Kwantlen Student Association, were not able to provide specific details, each saying the contract under negotiation is confidential. However, Todd noted that student associations are concerned about expenses that may be downloaded onto schools by TransLink and the provincial government.

      “Universities have a very tightly controlled budget, and so when they’re asked to absorb new costs the money has to come from somewhere, and something has to be cut to accommodate those costs,” Todd told the Straight by phone. “If there’s additional costs being borne by institutions, we’re worried that they will have some impact on the library or instruction or whatever.”

      UBC, SFU, Langara College, and Capilano University are the only Lower Mainland schools that currently have a U-Pass program.

      Students from Kwantlen, Douglas College, Emily Carr University, Vancouver Community College, the Justice Institute of B.C., the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and the Burnaby campus of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology will be entitled to join the expanded U-Pass program.

      Tiffany Kalanj, spokesperson for the OnePassNow coalition, had previously indicated to the Straight that Douglas College, Emily Carr, and VCC were preparing for a fall referendum on the U-Pass program.

      But Todd maintained, “They can’t go ahead unless everybody can go ahead. There’s only one contract. So if the contract isn’t completed for Kwantlen, it’s not completed for Emily Carr or VCC, either.”

      TransLink needs $85.1 million to support the expansion of the U-Pass program from 2011 to 2020. But the regional transportation body acknowledged in an October 7 report to Metro Vancouver mayors that it doesn’t have the money to cover more bus-service hours and infrastructure along routes.

      During the last provincial election campaign, Premier Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberal party promised to expand the availability of U-Passes.

      Speaking in general terms about the difficult issues in the new U-Pass contract being negotiated by student associations, schools, TransLink, and the provincial government, McElroy said, “They pertain more to the rights and responsibilities of TransLink and the institutions, and who does what—and who pays for what.”

      Once the program is implemented, students attending publicly funded postsecondary institutions in the Lower Mainland will have a universal transit pass at a cost of $30 per month.

      In the case of Kwantlen, which has four campuses, the negotiation for a U-Pass contract has highlighted the lack of adequate public transportation in many parts of the region.

      Todd pointed out that many Kwantlen students live in neighbourhoods in Surrey and Langley that aren’t serviced by TransLink. This means that even if they get a U-Pass, it won’t make a difference to their commute.

      “The choice for us in Kwantlen at the moment is do we punish Richmond students by not entering the U-Pass program right away?” Todd said. “They use a lot of transit in Richmond; they’re right next to a SkyTrain line. Should they continue paying more? Or should students in Surrey and Langley pay for a U-Pass program that doesn’t serve their needs?”

      Laura Dyck, the student awards and financial adviser at the Justice Institute of B.C., says the institute’s students aren’t holding a referendum this fall about the U-Pass. When asked by the Straight when a vote might be held, Dyck replied, “We don’t know.”

      The expansion of the U-Pass program is one of many investments TransLink has identified for potential supplemental funding starting in 2011. The regional transportation body has laid out two options for financing new services: higher property taxes or a vehicle levy.



      Malcome Johnston

      Oct 29, 2010 at 11:59am

      UPass is for lazy university students who support unsustainable practices. Skytrain is for the most unsustainable students who don't give a crap about the environment. Skytrain makes people drive. That's a fact. VAncouver is a loser city where everybody wants to live in Surrey because Surrey is better in every way. Better houses, more land, more space to drive, more restaurants choices, and more parking spaces.

      Upass makes loser students and loser skytrains.


      Oct 30, 2010 at 9:54am

      Malcome, I love your delicious irony! Very clever!


      Oct 30, 2010 at 3:56pm

      Actually, not paying their fair share for transit is one of the reasons why the UBC route has full capacity. If they paid the full fare (like they used to), there would be more money to build extra capacity on the line.

      Eric C

      Oct 30, 2010 at 8:56pm

      @Matt Todd and FantasyCheck,

      U-Pass: Trick or Treat?

      Is the U-Pass going to be a trick or treat for you, Matt Todd? Here is what TransLink doesn't tell everyone in its Annual Reports:

      TransLink lives in an altered reality, the glass is always half-full for TransLink, the tone is always upbeat and creeps aren”˜t an issue on transit. Diesel buses on the 99 B-Line route aren’t a noise nuisance or health hazard to residents living on the 99 B-Line route.

      The glass is half-full on transit: half-full of piss. Live close to college, buy a bike or walk, Matt and don't become a lazy transit sloth unless you aspire to become a deadbeat government or TransLink employee who commutes 3 hours daily on the transit-dole; you don't know what you aren't missing on transit.

      FantasyCheck, annually, TransLink skims at least a few $million dollars off the 99 B-Line route which costs TransLink next to nothing to operate, even with the U-Pass. Transit is a welfare program to get some people over the hump of not being able to afford a car and is like living in an apartment without an in-suite washer and dryer.

      Not everyone is a loser on transit but if you are a loser or creep, you likely aren't driving a BMW and you likely are taking transit. Reality sucks sometimes and so does transit.

      "The Bad Man"

      Oct 30, 2010 at 9:11pm

      I should know by the ring of empty seats around him on the at-capacity 99 that the man in the center of the bus is”¦ off. I sit down beside him anyways.
      Not my wisest decision.

      From the corner of my eye, I see him turn to face me. I feel his warm breath as he hisses in my ear. It’s just a low, toxic sound at first, like a gas leak, and then slowly the sounds form words.

      “I hate you,” he whispers. His face is inches from mine. “You motherfucker. Motherfucker.” He drives the point home by slamming his fist into the open palm of his hand.

      “I’m going to stab out your eyes and piss in your daughter’s mouth.”

      He spits on the ground in front of me.

      I’m too afraid to move when my stop is announced. As the bus slows down, there’s the sound and glow of a police cruiser from behind. The doors open and I rush to hide in the group of people heading for the exit. He grabs my wrist and squeezes hard enough that I think it might break.
      He only lets go when a distracted, hurried woman Red-Rovers my arm free. I run.

      From across the street, I watch the cops escort the man off the bus. His eyes lock with mine as they lead him into their cruiser.