– Let’s hope U-Pass issue gets resolved soon

The Straight

By Amanda Eyolfson

With a history spanning four decades, the British Columbia Institute of Technology now has just short of 50,000 students. And, like every year, these students have issues which need to be resolved.

As a part of the BCIT Student Association’s 2009-10 executive team, it’s my job to represent the student body and, likewise, to be in the know. And the number-one hot topic of the day? The U-Pass.

Sitting here in the BCIT Evolution 107.9 radio newsroom, it’s the buzz: Is this transit program, as promised by the provincial government for September 2010, going to be implemented? Students from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Douglas College, and Vancouver Community College have been demanding that TransLink and the B.C. Liberals implement a universal $25-a-month pass for all postsecondary students in Metro Vancouver.

But then Ken Hardie, director of communications for TransLink, steps into our studio for an interview, and puts his own points into perspective. According to Hardie, there is just not enough revenue to make a $25 pass available to smaller institutions. He says that the price is based on the size of the school, and explains why UBC students pay $23.75 per month: it is large, and the cost can be distributed evenly—yet thinly—amongst the population. He adds that TransLink has to generate as much revenue from people using the U-Pass as it did before it was introduced.

Furthermore, Hardie says that it is quite feasible for students to get together from all postsecondary schools across Metro Vancouver and agree on a reasonable cost. He also says the offer TransLink has made is the best they can manage, and they simply cannot afford to grant the students’ demands. A U-Pass expansion would require TransLink to purchase more buses, hire more drivers, extend service miles, et cetera—something Hardie says is not feasible for the regional transportation authority at this point. TransLink asserts it cannot expand in such a way without gaining more revenue. And that revenue would have to come from the provincial government.

Yet the B.C. Liberals are still promising to make the U-Pass universal for the rest of Vancouver’s postsecondary institutions—regardless of what TransLink has to say. However, it also seems the government is having issues defending their choices regarding funding these days. (Student aid, anyone? Anyone?)

At BCIT, we have faced the obstacle of the student body dividing itself in the past. There are more part-time students attending our institute than full-time. It makes more sense for a full-time student, then, to contribute to the U-Pass than it does for someone taking a class once a week. There needs to be some sort of deal worked out in that situation between BCIT and TransLink.

In any case, let’s hope that somehow, sometime soon, the issue is resolved and a system is created that works. This way, all students, including those at BCIT, will enjoy something so affordable.

Amanda Eyolfson is the vice president for public relations and marketing at the BCIT Student Association.

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