Another ride on the bus pass
By Brendan Howe
Western students may be able to ditch their cars and hop onto the bus next year without the hassle of paying each time.
The London Transit Commission has proposed to the University Students' Council a bus pass for the 1998/99 academic year which would enable students to ride the LTC as much as they want for the school year paid for by a $75 increase in student fees.
Plans are to have a referendum in conjunction with this spring's presidential election. If the student body votes in favour of the pass, a motion would then be taken to the Board of Governors to increase student fees by $75 for full-time students.
"This is a very valuable item to offer students," said USC President Ryan Parks. He explained if every student had a bus pass, living off-campus would be cheaper and easier. "If students get a bus pass they can move farther and farther out along the bus lines," Parks said.
John Ford, manager of planning for LTC, said right now students pay $196 per semester for a bus pass. If it were added to USC fees, students would save over $300 per year.
He also said this type of program has been implemented in other cities such as Kingston, Peterborough and Guelph and for the most part have been successful.
One of the concerns about this initiative, however, is an increase in student fees must be strongly justified. Peter Mercer, VP-administration, said the university has met with LTC twice and is asking them to provide more information before an increase in ancillary fees can be approved.
"Given the price sensitivity, the Board will be nervous in adding $75 to what is already the largest [student] fee, unless it is deemed necessary and desired," he said.
Mercer said they are concerned about getting a backlash from people and wants the LTC to explain how this increase in fees is justified to a student living close to campus or who owns a car.
USC VP-finance Lucy Pinheiro said she feels the student fees at Western represent the amount of services the student body gets. "It's going to come down to yes or no do you want this?" she said.
Former USC President Dave Tompkins was very involved in the bus pass initiative last year during his presidency. He said his council did a lot of research into the project and was happy it was coming to the forefront but did not agree with the timing.
"I'm a little disappointed [the referendum] didn't happen in October but I'm glad it's happening in the spring," Tompkins said.
The LTC is planning to continue meeting with the USC to iron out the details of the project and then the motion for a referendum will have to come to council. If council supports it, Western students will decide in the spring what the future of transportation at the university will be.