By Nikayla Goddard, August 13 2020—
Following the University of Calgary and Calgary Transit’s decision to suspend the UPass program for Fall 2020, the Students’ Union (SU) has been advocating for an affordable alternative for students who will still be taking transit to the university in the fall. The university has recently announced a temporary solution — discounted transit books of 10 — but the SU is continuing to advocate for a better option.
“Various scenarios were discussed during the last few months between Calgary Transit and the University of Calgary,” a statement from the University of Calgary said. “Calgary Transit proposed running the UPass program for Fall 2020 in the same format as previous years. This would mean all students would pay into the program, even if they were not physically on campus. The University did not feel this was a reasonable alternative as a large majority of students would end up paying for a service they would not be utilizing.
“The university proposed running the UPass program as ‘opt-in’ for students, which was not supported by Calgary Transit. As a result, the mutual decision was made to suspend the program for Fall 2020.”
SU vice-presdient external Marley Gillies said that since it was announced that the UPass would be cancelled, the SU made it a “top priority” to find an affordable alternative for Fall 2020. Gillies says the recent announcement for books of 10 transit tickets is a “huge win for students at the moment,” with the transit tickets costing $21, so 40 per cent off.
On July 17, the SU partnered with the Graduate Students’ Association with a joint letter to all city councillors and the mayor requesting affordable transit.
“…We agree in principle that students should not all pay for the UPass,” the letter said, “however, we also recognize that not having the UPass has caused concern among post-secondary students who may no longer have an option for affordable, accessible public transportation.”
“It’s definitely an affordable alternative,” Gillies said, “however, it has issues for students who are looking to go to campus more than once or twice a week, or even just use transit to get access to employment or access in the city. That price can definitely rack up pretty quickly. Although we are happy to see some sort of discount for students, we are still advocating for a discounted monthly pass that is more affordable for the temporary future.”
The monthly transit pass would ideally be the same cost as the UPass, which is about $150 a semester. This monthly pass would just be needed for the months of the fall semester, as the UPass is slated to be reinstated Dec. 31 for Winter 2021.
Gillies explained that the SU is continuing to advocate for affordable transit options amongst other issues presented by COVID-19 and government funding cuts. She said that a recent survey sent out to all students and open for the last month will be crucial to “guide advocacy.” The survey received over 700 responses and results will be made available at an SLC meeting in early September.
Moving forward, Gillies said that one of her initial election platform points that she is working on and tweaking due to COVID relates to this transit issue.
“Putting the UPass on the My Fare transit system so that students would be able to access their UPass on a mobile device. They would still have a unicard, but they wouldn’t have to wait in line for that sticker in Science B. That is our long term goal with the UPass.”
Student transit ticket purchases are limited to 5 books of 10 tickets per month, and are available for purchase as of Aug. 4 only at the following locations: Parking & Transportation Services at the Olympic Volunteer Centre, Residence Services in the Dining Centre, Foothills Medical Bookstore and the Main Campus Bookstore, which opens Aug. 17. For more information, check out the UCalgary Parking and Transportation website.