Through referendum the University of Manitoba Student Union passed their “U-Pass” program, to continue their efforts to provide a universal bus pass for all University of Manitoba students. While complaints about the recent approval are mostly valid—my money is my own and I don’t think I should have to spend it on someone else—there is one argument that holds no ground: “I drive to school and pay my own way, why should I have to pay more so you can take the bus?”
Though I agree that the U-Pass is a bad thing, I completely disagree with the fact that vehicle commuters “pay their own way.”
Many people do not know, but subsidized vehicular transportation is written right in the University of Manitoba Act. According to the University of Manitoba Act, Section 16, point 1.1, “parking must be operated on a cost recovery basis.” This short statement ignites so much ire it is rather incomprehensible and goes to show just how ignorant people truly are when it comes to the costs of operating their vehicles.
Instead of market forces dictating how much you pay for parking, the school sets the price based on the cost of delivering. This not only means that the vast swathes of parking lots do not generate any revenue for the City (the institution is property tax exempt) but it also isn’t generating any profit for the school.
Just look at the line-up for the parkade at class change, for example. With line-ups like that why are they not charging more for those stalls? Because they are not allowed to! My university is poorer because you drive to school. What is even more infuriating is there was no vote for this subsidy, it’s written right into the Charter! Students had the opportunity to accept or reject the U-Pass; drivers have their subsidy written in law. To say this is unfair would be an understatement.
For comparison, downtown Winnipeg has 72,000 commuters daily and 35,526 off-street parking stalls, a ratio of about two people per stall. People commuting to downtown pay a median charge of $155.25, or $1,242 for eight months. By comparison, University of Manitoba has “over 6,400” parking spaces at their Fort Garry campus and 475 at the Bannatyne campus. Assuming that over 6,400 means 6,499 (theoretically, they would advertise “over 6,500” if it was more) that’s a total of 6,974 stalls with a student and staff population of 36,205, or a ratio of five people per stall. On the basis of a supply and demand argument, you would expect the price to be at least double, but instead the university charged $490 for the school year, or $61.25 per month, far less than what would be expected.
Setting these artificial ceilings on prices not only takes money from my pocket, it pushes people toward driving as their mode of transportation, increasing greenhouse gases and forcing the City to build and maintain more and more infrastructure for you to commute. When someone parks their car it costs everyone an extra $170 a year for the transit users to get to school for free.
To all my fellow students who drive, please continue to decry transportation subsidies! It says a lot that you are ignorant of the fact that you are part of the problem. To my fellow bus commuters, I am pleading with you to speak up to the administration and ask them to eliminate this subsidy for drivers. Tell them they should be generating a profit on the people who feel it is their right to drive. Tell them that you want your university to be the best it can be, and the added profit to the University’s coffers would go a long way to improving your university experience.
Though the University Charter is not controlled by the administration—it’s an act of legislature—their recommendations to government go a long way.
And the next time someone protests that they are paying for you to take the bus you can smile, knowing the fact that they are ignorant of the true fact that they are a far larger burden on the University.