GRADUATE STUDENTS WILL vote on the U-Pass referendum question during the Graduate Student Association (GSAÉD) elections March 19–21. Despite approval of the U-Pass in the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) referendum by 3,723 votes to 1,576 votes, graduate students also have to approve the program for the City of Ottawa to proceed with its implemention for 2012–13. Committees advocating both for and against the U-Pass have been formed.
The “Yes” campaign maintains voting in favour of the U-Pass is the best response to the referendum question despite its increased price.
“In the upcoming referendum, the choice is between the U-Pass program and nothing at all, aside from prohibitively expensive regular transit passes,” said Sean Boots, member of the “Yes” committee and a master’s student in public and international affairs. “Although cheaper U-Pass fees and wider opt-out options would be a definite plus, the U-Pass program is far better than any alternatives and provides an essential service to the students that need it most.”
Boots believes the U-Pass is also beneficial because it reduces pollution, makes transit more accessible and affordable to students, and provides a more convenient option than driving to campus.
He pointed out the U-Pass as proposed is still cheaper than the monthly bus passes offered to students by OC Transpo. He believes removing this program would take away an affordable mode of transport for students.
Members of the “No” campaign, such as Victoria Sands, and a master’s student in women’s studies, agree with Boots—a universal bus program is beneficial for many of the same reasons, such as convenience and the environment. The main problem for the “No” is the price increase.
“Students have massive debt, fast rising tuition fees, and high costs of living among many other financial hardships,” said Sands, chairperson for the committee. “It is incredibly problematic that the city is abusing this program to put undue burden on students.”
Sands believes it is important students are aware the U-Pass in Ottawa is the highest price nationally. According to her, raising the price by $70 is not fair when OC Transpo has cut services and can’t guarantee they will remain at the current level.
One major concern shared between the GSAÉD “No” campaign and the SFUO “No” campaign is the concern about making OC Transpo a revenue-neutral service.
“For a program that all students have to pay for regardless of whether or not they use the service, this program generates guaranteed and high revenue for OC Transpo and the City of Ottawa,” said Sands. “They should be providing a service that remains revenue-neutral.”
In past interviews with the Fulcrum, OC Transpo has claimed the program remains revenue-neutral.
More information on the “Yes” campaign can be found at Yesouiupass.tumblr.com or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. The “No” campaign can be contacted at email@example.com.