Why student transit is essential
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Staff Writer
Like thousands of students across the Lower Mainland, I rely on public transportation to commute to school. This service is made much more affordable by the U-Pass, the mandated $38-per-month fee we pay that allows every student unlimited access to transit services. Douglas just hosted a referendum on whether to renew the U-Pass program or discard it entirely. Keeping the U-Pass would involve upping the cost by $1.50 a month throughout 2016 and 2017.
Undoubtedly, the referendum will go through and we will keep the U-Pass just like we have in the past. This is especially obvious for a school such as Douglas, which is very accessible by transit and has students from all across the Lower Mainland. However, many students resent the cost of the U-Pass, particularly the ones who rarely or never use it. Some find it unfair that they have to pay for something they don’t use, and these students will resist the fee increase (a cost less than that of a cup of coffee.)
These students—the ones most likely to vote “no” in the referendum—do not understand the full value of the U-Pass. Having unlimited transit opens up a lot of opportunities for many students. It significantly reduces costs, which is especially essential for lower-income students. Many users have no alternate sources of transportation—they may not have a car or even a driver’s license.
The U-Pass isn’t just to commute to school: it allows people to get to work, appointments, travel, and access areas in an efficient manner. Even car 0wners can benefit from the U-Pass. It can be faster, cheaper, and easier to travel to Rogers Arena for a game or concert via SkyTrain than by driving.
Funding transit also encourages fewer cars on the road, ultimately being much better for the environment. It also benefits the economy in reduced fuel, road, and environmental costs. The U-Pass is not just financially beneficial to students, but to the greater city area as well.
Most likely, many students will not vote in or even be aware of the referendum. There is not enough current opposition to the program for a serious risk of losing the pass, and there probably never will be. The U-Pass is one of the cheapest and most used transit passes in the province, and it is essential for the lives of tens of thousands of students. The slight fee increase is a very small price to pay for accessibility and subsidized transit opportunities. The benefits to the environment and student morale far outweigh the extra $1.50 or any anti-transit views.