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Students raise awareness about U-Pass price increase

Students bring awareness to the loss of major bus routes
Photo by Chris Radojewski

ON OCT. 31, students at Carleton University, led by the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA), dressed up as zombies and attended a mock funeral for the loss of important transit routes while getting students to sign postcards petitioning against proposed fare hikes for the U-Pass.

“Because it was Halloween, we figured we would do a zombie march mourning the loss of 46 bus routes, including the 117, which was a vital bus that used to service students in the Prince of Wales area that went to Carleton,” said Chantle Beeso, vp of student issues for CUSA.

About 15 students started the procession in the Carleton University Centre at 11 a.m., marching to the bus stop on campus. Tombstones were laid in memory of the 117 route. Students also spoke out against the suggested 17 per cent increase in the price of the U-Pass to be put forth in referendums at both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa.

“Basically OC Transpo wants to raise the price of the U-Pass by $70, and so we have these U-Pass postcards that we’ve been handing out to students,” said Beeso. “We have over 3,000 signed at Carleton and over 5,000 signed at [the U of O].”

The postcards will be sent to city officials to express opposition to the price hike.

The zombies’ big concern wasn’t just the price hike, but also the city’s financial reports, which, according to Beeso, don’t add up.

“We’ve put together a U-Pass lobby document that basically states that there could be a margin of error in OC Transpo and the city’s numbers that they put forth to us,” said Beeso. “They actually haven’t provided us numbers with a financial breakdown as to why $180 per semester is absolutely necessary.”

“With the numbers that we have put together [with] statisticians, we believe $145 per semester, with the letter of intent that we have signed, is a revenue-generating program,” Beeso added.

There were many students signing the postcards being handed out at the protests who agreed that the increase is too much for OC Transpo to demand.

“I am a student and I don’t actually work,” said Alfredo Garcia, a fourth-year law and political science student at Carleton University. “My academics mean a lot, like keeping a high CGPA. [A] $70 increase is something I don’t reallyhave. Especially because I am on the [Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)] and I rely a lot on my bursary and scholarship money and my parents. I know $70 doesn’t sound like that much, but when you are a student living off OSAP, it adds up.”

There are students who maintain the U-Pass has been a useful and necessary service—and a staple in their transportation.

“Despite the increase, I would still want a U-Pass,” said Bachan Mahamdou Danda, an international development and globalization student at the U of O. “I use the U-Pass a lot.  I would sign the [postcards] though, to keep the price the same.”

Though discussion among students at the mock funeral remained divided, many believe there have been benefits to the program.

“I like the idea that I get a subsidized bus pass, but half of my friends did not want the U-Pass and did not want the extra charge for it,” said Thomas Sears, a fourth-year engineering student at Carleton University. “I wish there was a better compromise. In terms of keeping students mobile and reducing the amount of cars [on the road], I think the U-Pass is a good idea.”

The proposed price of the U-Pass will be put to a referendum in the spring before the U of O or Carleton University can determine if the program will continue in fall 2012.

—Chris Radojewski