As the end of the three-year U-Pass contract nears, Winnipeg Transit has requested to begin negotiations with UMSU.
UMSU’s current U-Pass contract will expire in May 2019, which UMSU president Jakob Sanderson called an “exciting opportunity.”
“I know there’s a lot of students that have experienced some issues with the U-Pass in the first iteration,” Sanderson said.
“And so we’re looking forward to addressing those.”
The U-Pass came to fruition following a fall 2014 referendum where UMSU members voted in favour of the mandatory pass for full-time students.
It was later approved by City Council in March 2015. The program began for students in September of 2016.
According to Sanderson, Winnipeg Transit recently requested the city pick up negotiations with the student unions involved in the U-Pass, which currently includes UMSU and the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA).
Students under the Red River College Students’ Association (RRCSA) voted to accept the U-Pass after a referendum in early 2018, but currently does not have a U-Pass system, despite the RRCSA website listing the implementation date as “tentatively” September 2018. If negotiations are approved by all parties, the RRCSA would join UMSU and UWSA for the 2019-2020 year.
While Sanderson said negotiations will not fully commence until nearer to the end of 2018, he added Winnipeg Transit “certainly” is aware of UMSU’s negotiation requests.
UMSU’s requests include a wider range of opt-out eligibility.
Sanderson referenced students in the St. Vital Perimeter South and Maples areas of the city who have limited access to public transit but are ineligible to opt-out of the U-Pass because they are technically within city limits.
“We’re going to say either the entire city limits needs to be expanded into the transit service area, or until such time as that is addressed, it can’t be opt-outs only for people outside the city limits,” he said.
“It needs to be opt-outs for people outside the transit service area. Because it doesn’t make sense for someone to pay for the U-Pass if they literally can’t use it. But that’s the unfortunate reality of what we’re locked in to.”
UMSU also plans to push for additional routes and buses in negotiations.
“We would obviously prefer for there to be bus routes expanded to all areas of the city,” he said.
“We also would like to see more convenient bus routes, because currently there’s some students — especially sort of on the north side of the city — where while they can bus to the university they don’t want to, because it’s such a long bus track. So we’re hoping that with completion of rapid transit and with some more bus routes that that can be alleviated.”
Sanderson added that while UMSU was told by Winnipeg Transit during the original negotiations that there would be more buses to accommodate the expected influx of students taking public transit, this has not happened.
He also noted that according to a survey conducted by UMSU, there has been a reported nearly 20 per cent increase in people who now use the U-Pass compared to those who bought passes before the universal pass was made available.
“We would hope to see a similar rise in the amount of buses. We haven’t seen that yet,” Sanderson said.
According to the current contract, if negotiations are not completed by 2019, the current contract will roll over for one additional year.
Sanderson stressed that regardless of how negotiations turn out, there will be a U-Pass available to U of M students in the 2019-20 school year.