Newfoundland & Labrador: students against bus pass increase

A mandatory fee increase that would go toward a universal bus pass for Memorial University students has been resoundingly rejected in a non-binding student vote.

The university proposed a U-Pass that would give all students at Memorial a semester pass at a reduced price. Students would pay for the pass — estimated at $139 for each of the fall and winter sessions — along with tuition and other fees.

The pass would allow for unlimited travel on Metrobus routes and would add additional proposed routes to and from Memorial campuses.

Of the approximately 12,565 eligible voters, 6,977 voted last week.

The results, released today, show 71 per cent voted against the pass.

‘It has been put to bed’

Gary Kachanoski, the university’s president, confirmed he will vote against the pass given the results.

“It has been put to bed. We will be voting not to proceed with the U-Pass,” Kachanoski said. “If 70 per cent of students don’t want to be on the bus, then that’s a strong voice.”

He said administration had hoped the pass would reduce traffic and parking congestion at the Prince Phillip Drive campus while beefing up options for students.

“We were trying to create something positive, which is a really inexpensive — and we think it was a very inexpensive way — that we finally proposed for students to be able to get on and off campus to their programs, with express routes from away,” he said.

“It was a solution to try to work with municipalities, work with the city, and try to reinvigorate public transportation … but ultimately, you’re going to want to take the bus or you’re going to not want to take the bus.”

Student resistance

The university, which previously released a list of opt-out criteria — including residence outside the Metrobus area and medical conditions that prevent the use of public transit — argued the pass would work only if all students paid into the program.

But the union expressed concern its members would be stuck paying mandatory fees without getting any benefits.

“We’ve always asked for a universal opt out so that students have the option not to have a pass if it was not something they were going to have the benefit of having,” said MUNSU spokesperson Bailey Howard last month.

The administration will bring that recommendation forward for conclusion at the board of regents’ meeting in March.

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