Local News Thursday June 10th 2010
BC U-Pass Programs To Start In The Fall
UFV Student Union unsure how it will help students
On September 1, all students at publicly funded colleges and universities will be eligible for what the BC government calls "The most comprehensive student transit program in Canada."
Premier Gordon Campbell announced yesterday in a press release, that B.C. is the first province in Canada to offer an affordable, subsidized universal U-Pass transit program to post secondary students.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has set aside $20-million for the program's implementation in Metro Vancouver and will partner with TransLink, BC Transit, local governments and post secondary institutions. The rest of the province's schools will have funding granted as they apply to join the program.
“This fulfils our commitment to establish a universal U-Pass program for all students studying at B.C. colleges and universities,” said Campbell. “Students will enjoy the benefits of discounted transit passes to help with the costs of getting to and from school.”
In Metro Vancouver, post-secondary students will pay $30 per month for a system-wide U-Pass, compared to $81 they pay for monthly passes now. At some point students will be given an opportunity to vote in referendums on whether or not to join the new U-Pass BC Program.
“Not only will the U-Pass BC Program make transit more affordable for post secondary students, it will create a transit culture resulting in more people leaving their cars in the driveway, leading to less congestion and reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Shirley Bond.
Canadian Federation of Students’ B.C. Chairperson, Nimmi Takkar, lauded the government on the transit initiative.
“The Province and TransLink are to be congratulated for implementing a common U-Pass program for Metro Vancouver at an attractive price,” she said. “Affordable transit will be of tremendous benefit to post-secondary students in British Columbia and the communities where they live.”
Moira Stilwell, Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development said the program has the potential to assist about 439,000 BC students.
“I’m so pleased we’ve been able to work with our partners to support so many of our students,” said Stillwell.
UFV Interim Student Union President, Jay Mitchell, wasn't as optimistic about the new plan because they're still gray areas and he told the Voice in an e-mail that the program will be good for students in the Vancouver area where the U-Passes are expensive but may not help UFV students.
"A Translink pass for $30 a month is an excellent price for access to that system, and is a strong incentive for people to move away from the pollution and expense of a personal vehicle," said Mitchell. "The details on what transit access will be granted with this pass are unclear (because) it is not stated whether students will be isolated to their regional transit systems for those outside of Translink in Metro Vancouver, or whether this pass will be inclusive of all systems in the province."
Mitchell says the pass may be regionalized which means that students in Chilliwack might not be able to use the passes to travel to the UFV campus in Abbotsford.
"If the pass is limited to regional access, I don't expect that this will have much impact at all on UFV students as our Lower Mainland campus centres are not connected to the Translink system," he said.
The U-Pass is $10 a month ($40/semester), and provides students with unlimited transit as well as access to recreation facilities in the Upper Fraser Valley but it's also unclear if the U-Pass will work the same way in the fall.
"I think it would have been an outstanding move for the government to include rec centre access in their provincial U-Pass, because this benefit would dovetail very well with the ActNow BC program," said Mitchell.
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