Vote will determine future of bus pass program

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

HYPE team members spreading the word with signs

Farhang Jalilian

SPREADING THE WORD. Members of the University Students’ Council HYPE street team were in the Western Student Recreation Centre yesterday letting students know about the bus pass referendum. Voting begins today and lasts until 8 p.m. on March 13.

Starting today, undergraduate students will be voting on the fate of the bus pass.

In the second referendum of the year, students are being asked to choose whether to keep the London Transit Commission bus pass.

The bus pass has been included as a part of the University Students’ Council’s student fees for a number of years. This year’s fee of $125.78 covered an eight-month unlimited bus pass for use between September and April and was mandatory for all full-time students.

The referendum is over an eight per cent increase in the fee, raising the price of the pass to $135.84.

“This a decision put on us by the LTC, it is their budget situation. From what they’ve told us there is no way they can sustain themselves without the increase they’ve given us,” Rachel Halpern, USC communications officer, said.

“The price raise is not just for students, but for London community members as well.”

“The LTC is raising the costs due to cost of living and service increases,” Stephen Lecce, USC president, said.

A one-dollar administrative cost has also been added to the fee.

“We’ve advocated for an affordable bus pass for students. Students are definitely getting a fair deal,” Lecce said.

“The University of Toronto and many other universities do not offer their students a discounted pass " we are very fortunate,” Halpern said.

A quorum of 20 per cent of undergraduate students is needed for the referendum to pass. If fewer than 5,500 students vote, the referendum will be invalid and the bus pass fee would be eliminated, along with the pass.

“The bus pass is definitely used on a regular basis by over 5,500 students. I am confident we will reach the quorum,” Lecce said.

However, not everyone is as confident. Matt Shumka, an incoming USC Arts and Humanities councillor, expressed concern that quorum would not be met and the bus pass would be lost.

“I’m sitting in The Spoke today and I’m surrounded by 17 posters for St. Patrick’s Day and not a single one for the bus pass referendum,” Shumka said.

“I can’t think of a more pressing issue for the student body right now and I feel that the effort to inform students just has not been made by the USC. Personally, I’m concerned that I’m going to lose my bus pass.”

A pass from the LTC without the USC discount would cost post-secondary students approximately $70 per month.

In February 2000 the USC held a similar referendum, raising the bus pass fee from its original $75 to $95. Over 5,600 students voted, with an 87.8 per cent “yes” vote.

Students and the USC have expressed an interest in extending the bus pass to operate for 12 months.

“We haven’t terminated the idea of a 12 month pass, we are just focused right now on passing the initial bus pass to renew it at the inflated cost. It is an issue that will most likely be brought up in next year’s term,” Halpern said.

A pass for part-time students is another issue the USC is considering.

“There has been a lot of concern brought forth in regards to part-time students wanting access to the bus pass, so I think it will be something that we put on the table for next year,” Halpern said.

Lecce encouraged students to learn more about the history of the bus pass and the referendum. Voting continues until Friday.

Visit www.westernbuspass.ca to vote on the referendum.

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