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Vanessa Dorimain, SFUO vice-president of university affairs, directing students waiting for their U-Pass on Sept. 1. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.

Delays from OC Transpo, reduced SFUO staffing factors in longer line

Over the past few weeks, students returning to campus for the new school year have been faced with an unexpected inconvenience—lengthy wait times for their U-Pass. For some students, the wait time has been as long as three to four hours.

Vanessa Dorimain, vice-president of university affairs of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), said there are a number of factors contributing to the hefty wait times.

“Last year students waited no longer than 25 minutes to receive their U-Pass. We had more staff, more stations open, and more conveniently, our cards delivered to us two weeks before the start date,” said Dorimain.

Dorimain highlighted that because the SFUO received the cards late from OC Transpo, many appointments had to be pushed back.

Cuts to staffing for the U-Passes due to the SFUO’s current financial state has also played a role in the extended wait times.

Despite the wait time, once students receive their cards they will notice differences from the previous version. According to Dorimain, new technology has been added and changes have been made to improve the overall security and usage of the card.

This year the U-Pass is not co-branded with the (International Student Identity Card) and is now a smart (tap) card. The pilot for the smart card started with the summer U-Pass and it worked well, so we agreed to continue on with this technology.”

Students should note that they can still obtain the discounts from the old U-Pass, for example on the Greyhound, by visiting the International Student Identity Card table during U-Pass distribution, or at the Graduate Students’ Association office after Sept. 16.

The new tap feature of the U-Pass is similar to Presto cards and works on OC Transpo and STO routes, as well as the O-Train.

Dorimain also highlighted the new security measures the U-Pass will offer.

“Because of the hotlisting feature of a smart card, once a student reports their card missing or lost we are able to hotlist the card and it becomes inactive, causing less transferability.”  

Despite these benefits, many students remain concerned about the lengthy wait times.

“It seems really long compared to last year. I imagine they changed something in how they do it, but they went in the wrong direction,” said Caroline Zamor, a second-year U of O student. “I feel like whatever happened this year (compared) to last year should probably be looked at again for next year.”

Azeezat Kotun, a U of O student who waited in line for three hours to get her U-Pass, said, “I don’t think that was fair on the students,” and suggested that next year the cards should be distributed by faculty.

To students still looking to get their U-Pass, Dorimain suggests checking the SFUO website for updated distribution hours, and reminds students to ensure that they are registered for full-time studies before waiting in the line.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and are working through very different circumstances this year. Nonetheless we are still actively trying to find solutions and appreciate the support we are now seeing from different partners at the university.”