Getting to and from the university is an element of the educational process that nearly every single student must take into account when budgeting their expenses. Being a university student is expensive enough as it is, why wouldn’t we want to cut the costs of commuting, too?
When I arrived on the U of M campus this year, all I could think of upon hearing that there was no U-Pass system was that I had returned to the Dark Ages of universities and university student unions.
I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), in Abbotsford, BC. UFV’s Student Union Society helped to develop and institute UFV’s U-Pass system over four years ago.
UFV is one of over a dozen universities in BC that have versions of a U-Pass system that subsidizes the cost of public transportation so university students can commute more affordably.
Meanwhile, in Manitoba both the University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg’s student unions have been unable to make it happen.
Throughout my entire undergraduate degree I used my U-Pass to get to and from my classes, to get groceries, and to attend community events. I did all these things for a fraction of the cost I would have if I had had to pay the going rate for monthly public transit passes.
Of course, I am not blind to the argument that there are those students who own vehicles and would prefer to spend the money on gas and insurance to have the convenience of driving to school. However, if you are an out-of-towner or far from public transit options and prefer to drive, I know for a fact that you are not exempt from the cost of paying to park at the U of M.
There are 12 park-and-ride locations offered by Winnipeg Transit, one of which is located quite near the U of M by bus. You could save on the cost of parking at the university by taking the bus that short distance between the free park and ride and the university – the cost of the bus ride subsidized by the U-Pass system.
While someone might say that no one would take the extra effort to save on parking, I know that they would. I had several vehicle-owning university student friends who would drive in from out of town, park at a park-and-ride, and arrive at the university on the bus, thus saving themselves money on parking expenses and saving themselves the aggravation of trying to find a parking spot even remotely near where they needed to be on campus.
The costs associated with the proposed U-Pass system in Winnipeg is the largest point of contention for most students, especially those who don’t use public transit. For those who do use public transit, the cost of the U-Pass per semester would be minimal compared to $61.60 they are already paying to Winnipeg Transit every month for their university student transit pass.
Those who don’t use public transit will be subsidizing the cost of those who do use public transit – and this makes many vehicle-driving university students angry. To this I must ask: why is it only in this instance you are making such a fuss?
U of M student members of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) currently pay approximately $90 per semester to UMSU and yet only 7.3 per cent of those students voted in the current UMSU executive in March of this year. One, you have no right to complain about what UMSU is doing right now if you were a student, but didn’t vote in March. And two, people pay for things they don’t use to their full potential all the time.
The fact of the matter is there are systems put in place at the university that cost money, but they are deemed to be for the greater good of university students, and so if you don’t want to come out and play – that’s on you.
Given the success of U-Pass systems at other universities, the only thing that anybody should be mad about is the fact that University of Winnipeg Student Association vice-president advocate Zach Fleisher recently told U of W’s The Uniter that student associations in Winnipeg have been trying to get a U-Pass system for the past 15 years. But only now are these initiatives starting to really see the light of day.
Because I have experienced the positive effects of an implemented U-Pass system, I urge you to vote “yes” for the U-Pass.
Grace Romund is the Copy Editor for the Manitoban