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After lengthy public discussion with students and student unions, from Feb. 26-28 Memorial University is holding a student vote around providing a “U-Pass” (or reduced-price semester bus pass) to all Memorial University students on the main campus, Centre for Nursing Studies, and at the Marine Institute.
First and foremost, the U-Pass means low-cost access to transportation, meaning students can build a better connection to the place they live, work and study.
This unlimited access semester pass would make it easier to get to school, visit friends, pick up groceries, accept job interviews, arrive on time to health-care appointments, and so much more.
The added benefit is that, by having such a large number of (additional) people contributing to our transit system, we can improve the service in meaningful ways focused on student needs.
If the entire full-time student body (with some exceptions) are included, both Metrobus and GoBus can provide passes to students for only $139 per semester.
And while each individual pass would be inexpensive, such a large number of pass holders would enable major improvements to the system.
With a U-Pass, thousands of students will save hundreds or thousands of dollars. They will have the option to not buy a car, avoiding the costs of fuel, insurance, parking, and leases. And an improved public transit system means better access to housing options, which could mean access to lower rent, or better part-time job opportunities.
Throughout the U-Pass engagement process, a common concern was that the additional cost would be unfair for students who already own a vehicle.
For these individuals, it’s important to note that they can save on gas and parking fees by sometimes choosing the bus over their vehicle. It doesn’t take many pay-per-use hours on campus or parking tickets because you couldn’t find a parking spot when you were late for class to eat up $139 in four months.
It’s also important to note that, if confirmed, this U-pass would not come into effect until September 2020. This gives a significant lead time for students, if desired, to choose not to own a vehicle while attending school.
And we can’t ignore the benefits the U-Pass provides for the wider community: more people using the bus means fewer cars on the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, parking demand, and traffic congestion.
The U-Pass vote poses a very important decision to students, and the outcome will heavily impact the future of our public transit system. So it’s important to seriously consider what this vote means and we encourage all eligible students to visit www.mun.ca/u-pass to learn about the program prior to voting.
As two city councillors on our Transportation Commission, we are committed to changing the system for the better. We encourage students to join us in this effort and vote “yes” for the U-Pass.
Dave Lane and Ian Froude
St. John’s city councillors