U-Pass extended for five more years
By Atiba Nelson, Staff Reporter
The partnership (between TransLink and the Province of British Columbia) that busses post-secondary students around cities throughout the province has been extended until 2025.
Douglas College students at both the New Westminster and Coquitlam campuses can rejoice as the student associations at the nine other participating institutions voted to approve a five-year extension of the U-Pass BC program, despite monthly fee increases.
Currently, the monthly U-Pass rate is $41 dollars, but is slated to increase to $46 by the end of the five-year extension. Douglas College students may not feel the monthly increase due to the fact that students pay a lump sum for the U-Pass upon registration in courses for the semester.
The “Universal” pass program started in 2003 as a pilot project. Initially, only University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University students were eligible for a U-Pass. At that time, the U-Pass program was sponsored by Vancity credit union, and sold as a way “to generate more off-campus transit trips by students for work, shopping, entertainment and other purposes,” according to an August 2003 media release on the Vancity corporate website.
In 2010, the Government of British Columbia asked BC post-secondary education students to vote on whether their institutions wanted a U-Pass, as only Capilano and Langara students had joined UBC and SFU students as groups using the subsided transit pass.
Douglas College students asked students to vote to become a part of the U-Pass BC program, and 96 percent of voters approved Douglas’ entry into the program, despite the program imposing a mandatory fee and no mechanism to opt-out.
Each time the issue of the U-Pass BC program contract renewal has been tabled, Douglas students approve the program, which may be due to the uniqueness of both Douglas campuses proximity to the Skytrain—a mode of transportation available to U-Pass holders.
Opponents of the U-Pass BC program have held onto longstanding arguments centred on the program becoming an unnecessary financial burden for students who do not use transit services.
Douglas College does allow students to opt-out of the U-Pass BC program. To opt-out students must prove to the College that they have a documented physical or psychological medical condition preventing them from using the transit system. The form, available on the Douglas College website, must be completed by a qualified medical assessor and submitted to the college. Another U-Pass BC program exemption is if a Douglas student holds a U-Pass from another BC post-secondary institution.