Students voice U-Pass viewpoints
Students at the University of Regina got a chance Tuesday to voice their concerns and raise questions to a panel about the proposed universal bus pass (U-Pass) scheduled for a referendum next week.
About 40 students showed up at The Owl in preparation for the March 16-18 vote, which asks: “Should the URSU (University of Regina Students’ Union) negotiate a Universal Bus Pass (U-Pass) that will cost every student $70-$90 per semester and provide unlimited access to Regina Transit and, when eligible, Para-Transit services for URSU members in the fall and winter semesters.”
David Vanderberg noted the U-Pass proposal also has a “park and ride” component to help alleviate parking concerns on campus.
If approved, students could park their vehicles at the Conexus Arts Centre and then take a bus to campus, explained Vanderberg, a student, U-Pass supporter and director of the Regina Green Ride Transit Network.
Students living within a one-kilometre radius of campus could opt out of the U-Pass. It was also revealed that students away from campus on internships or co-op placements would also be exempt. One student said his degree requires a work placement and he is still required to pay student fees. It was suggested that type of situation could also be part of negotiations.
Vanderberg said that to accommodate a U-Pass, the city could require five additional buses and nine new trips to campus.
He emphasized that details presented about the UPass and park and ride were part of discussions with the organizations and still have to be formally negotiated if approved in the referendum.
Conrad Hewitt, a thirdyear business student and 2012 Regina City Council candidate, questioned the fairness of building a better transit system on the backs of financially pressed students, especially since those not remaining in the city after graduation won’t benefit from the improvements in the long run. Hewitt also questioned the process of voting first and negotiating later since “you’re fundamentally asking people to vote on something that they are not informed on because there are no facts associated with it.”
Vanderberg agreed that it was uncommon to vote first and negotiate afterwards.
“And, we don’t want to be in that position. But the city is kind of not giving us an option,” said Vanderberg. He added that given the UPass was rejected in a 2009 referendum, the city has decided to proceed this way.
“So, they said go get it and we’ll talk, which has been really difficult and has made us have to kind of work around some of the questions that you saw people were asking.”
Besides Vanderberg, the panel consisted of Anna Dipple (Regina Public Interest Research Group), Georgi Boichev (University of Regina economics department) and student Rebecca Hammel. All the panellists declared their support for the proposal. Vanderberg said attempts were made to find someone opposed to sit on the panel.