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No word on summer 2016 pass

Photo: Marta Kierkus

OC Transpo and the Société de Transport de l’Outaouais (STO), have hammered out a deal that will let Gatineau-based students who study in Ottawa purchase the U-Pass. The new agreement applies to students at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, St Paul’s University, and Algonquin College, and will be in effect in September.

Approximately 4,000 more students will now have access to the universal transit pass, said Vanessa Dorimain, vice-president of university affairs of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO).

The pass will cost $192.70 per semester, up 2.5 per cent from last year, as per a City of Ottawa decision made last February. The pass will be mandatory for all full-time students except for those who qualify under the SFUO’s list of exemptions. The SFUO’s exemptions still included Gatineau-based students at the time of publication.

The agreement was finalized last winter by the SFUO’s previous administration, said Dorimain, who said she became aware of the new developments in April. “The contract is still being negotiated with the federation and university,” she said, to finalize the finer points of the deal.

The Quebecois transit system changed their minds because they “realized it would be a good thing for us and also for all students because we had a lot of demand the last four years,” said Céline Gauthier, head of public affairs of STO.

“For sure we want to meet the demand, but the main goal of this agreement is first to have a better price fare control on our buses, and to make sure that the STO avoids revenue losses by improper use of the U-Pass on STO networks,” said Kathleen Barette, head of marketing and communications of STO.

Students living in Gatineau were previously acquiring U-Passes through other means, said Gauthier. Students with an OC Transpo U-Pass were allowed to use their U-Pass to ride STO transit after 9 a.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends, which resulted in a loss of revenue for the Quebecois transit system, said Céline Gauthier, head of public affairs of STO.

The U-Pass office has begun making adjustments to ease the stress of long U-Pass lines in September, said Dorimain. “That’s been a lot of the discussion between myself and the U-Pass office,” she said.

Possible changes include expanding the appointment line into the University Centre clubs’ room, increasing the number of people who can make reservations, and getting new computers to handle more students.

U-Pass distribution begins on Aug. 18.

Neither Gauthier or Dorimain were able to shed light on the status of a potential 2016 summer U-Pass, however Dorimain said the issue could be up for a vote in the next few months. “We are currently discussing that, the question is that still has to go through referendum which we are trying to propose for October,” she said.