What a difference an unused bus pass could make

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Erin Chapman

Jon Purdy

"I thought there must be money sitting around from [Western's] unused bus passes and if [the passes] could somehow be translated into tickets and donated to organizations to be used for their clients then that money is not going to waste." — Erin Chapman, Western graduate

While many Western students take their bus passes for granted, numerous Londoners and local organizations struggle for easy access to transportation.

As a recent Western graduate, Erin Chapman knows many students don’t utilize the bus pass included in their student fees. Now she’s devised a way to put Western’s unused passes to good use.

Last summer, Chapman was browsing the needed items list on London’s Women’s Community House website. Since movie passes were on the list, Chapman secured several donations from theatres. However, she quickly realized transporting people to theatres was a major problem.

“That got me thinking that transportation is an issue for people who need help from shelters,” Chapman says. “I started to think about what resources would be available " who would have bus tickets floating around that they don’t need?”

A student bus pass is worth $113, which translates into 60 super-saver tickets or approximately one month’s travel for one person. Chapman’s preliminary research found roughly 2,300 students have parking passes, meaning they may not use their bus passes.

“I thought there must be money sitting around from these unused bus passes [at Western],” Chapman says. “If [the passes] could somehow be translated into tickets and donated to organizations to be used for their clients, then that money isn’t going to waste.”

Last summer, Chapman e-mailed Western’s President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Davenport, who passed the idea to University Students’ Council President Fab Dolan. Dolan responded positively to the idea and said he would discuss the idea with the London Transit Commission in September.

The LTC turned down the proposal.

“What the LTC communicated to me is that they’re not interested,” Dolan says. “From a personal point of view, I think it’s a shame. There is waste that could do some good. As USC president, I have to move forward with negotiations.”

Undaunted by the LTC’s rejection, Chapman took Dolan’s advice and continued searching for community organizations willing to support her idea. To date, Chapman’s proposal has received support from numerous community organizations, including the Women’s Community House and the Boys and Girls Club of London.

“[Chapman’s] proposal is brilliant,” says Kate Wiggins, executive director of Women’s Community House.

“[Our clients] would be able to get around the city because there are always appointments to go to, especially since our residents are often in a poor financial position.”

Don Donner, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of London, agrees.

“I think it’s fantastic idea,” he says. “A really wonderful, creative and cost-efficient idea. We would be in support of it.”

While the Boys and Girls Club has a fleet of 20 passenger busses and numerous vans to transport children from all parts of London for weekly activities, Donner said extra bus passes or tickets could help children come two or even three times a week.

Currently, Chapman’s proposal is in the question-and-research phase; she hasn’t yet determined how many students would donate bus passes and whether the LTC will convert them into tickets.

However, Chapman is optimistic.

“I have faith that there will be students who want to lead this proposal, either through a petition or through writing to their USC representatives, in order to donate bus passes which go unused.”

Chapman’s experience has taught her to pursue ideas and ask questions; she advises others to do the same.

“You may find yourself on a path to a better solution than your original idea, or you may be the catalyst for someone else who, with more experience or knowledge than yourself in that field, could bring a new perspective to the plan.”

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