Province Announces a Unicorn U-Pass!

In a flurry of activity on Twitter, BC Premier Gordon Campbell announced that all Metro Vancouver post-secondary students (except those private school kids at TWU!) will be eligible for a U-Pass, eliminating excuses for students to drive drunk!!! Oh, wait.

The new universal Unicorn U-Pass will cost $30/month, with students outside of Metro Vancouver paying less.

uh, yeah. we went there.

So, what does that mean for you sexy UBC folk? Yes, our ego may be a little crushed as our elitism is threatened and those plastic cards with horrific photos from first year pop up everywhere. However, great news: MORE SEXY REFERENDA.

VP External Jeremy McElroy broke exclusively to us (ok, it was a tweet to Taylor, but whatever) that come January 2011, there will be a referendum on accepting the U-Pass at the new price of $30/month. Or, $120/semester.

Currently you are paying $95/semester, or $23.75/month, so the price increase for a normal school year will be $50/year.

In comparison, currently those other kids are stuck with the FastTrax program offered from Translink which allows full-time students from non-private post-secondary institutions to travel across all zones for the price of a single zone adult monthly pass. Or, $81/month. Yikes.

SFU, Langara College, and Capilano University (our not-as-hot sisters in the U-Pass program) are also affected. Langara and Capilano currently pay more than $30/month so they get an immediate price cut. We assume SFU will also be holding a referendum to accept the new price. What do you think? Is paying ~$50 more per year worth it for students from Kwantlen, Emily Carr, etc to save $400 per year?

The overarching question to consider is whether we will be getting increased service to UBC, or if we are simply subsidizing increased service along routes to these other institutions.

As we’ve previously mentioned, in addition to the cost of the U-Pass going up, there are also whispers in a not-so-silent manner that AMS Council is going to hold a referendum or two on raising student fees and tying our student fees to CPI. Stay tuned, kids…we have a feeling there will be some sexy and dramatic debate next year about a whackload of fee increases.

For more information on the UBC U-Pass click here or here.

12 thoughts on “Province Announces a Unicorn U-Pass!

  1. Jeremy McElroy

    As far as we know, the current UBC-AMS U-Pass Agreement will stay in effect, making us assume that the $3 will continue. Of course, with an increase in fees will come our insistence on increased assistance. I have a lot to talk to UBC about now, it seems.

  2. Ricardo

    So many referenda speculatively! This could be another lucrative year for AMS Election Committee members! *nudge nudge wink wink*

  3. HHH

    Yeah there’s also a separate U-pass program that’ll be on the ballot, and one about the funding model for the UBC Ombudsperson’s Office…

  4. Question..

    If the referendum for the fee increase fails does that mean students are rejecting the u pass all together? I assume that is correct because I don’t think anyone would prefer to pay an few extra dollars each month. The only reason that people would vote in favour of a price increase was if the alternative was the regular price transit pass, which is much, much more expensive.

    Also, congrats to the schools who are getting a cheaper u pass or getting a u pass for the first time!

  5. Timmy Wong

    I’m not a transportation or urban planner, but it makes sense from Translink’s POV. Buses have to run regardless of how many people are on it. By forcing students to pay $30/mo, students now have the option of:
    1.) keep driving and pay up
    2.) take up a space on said bus

    The second idea of Translink benefiting from this mandated post-sec U-Pass dealie is in the number of bus commuters who are on the FastTrax program. I’m going on numerical assumptions at this point, but let’s say 33% students paid $77/mo for a FastTrax. Now, 100% students pay $30/mo for a U-Pass. Instant profit right there. (for those curious, Translink will lose money if more than 39% of students were in the old system and now on the U-pass)

  6. Pierce

    @Question: Yes, if UBC students reject the u-pass referendum, they will have then opted out of the program:

    “Schools will have to follow five steps to join the U-Pass BC Program, including consulting with TransLink and student societies on the details of the program and reaching a contract that includes the school’s agreement to administer the U-Pass BC Program.

    Students must approve participation in the program through a referendum or another process according to their student society’s constitution.”

    Translink’s motive in the u-pass is to encourage young people to continue taking the bus, Skytrain, SeaBus, or West Coast Express etc after they graduate and become ineligible for the u-pass discount. (If you ask, nicely, TransLink will be more than happy to produce statistics showing that university students in Vancouver overwhelmingly switch to automobile transportation after graduation.) Also, it should be noted, that no public transportation authority re: TransLink ‘makes’ money in a typical business sense, and whatever it ‘makes’ -mostly through ticket sales and advertising- are lost through programs like the u-pass.

    For instance, you and I can now ride anything, anytime to anywhere for as long as we are enrolled at a public university. Except we only pay $30 a month, while a non-student adult would have to pay $150 a month for the same three-zone pass. So for every 1 of us, TransLink loses $120 dollars a month in theoretical revenues based on the notion that every student would buy the three-zone monthly pass.

    But we actually don’t, hence TransLink openly expressing the idea of congestion charges for motorists, or the ‘nuclear option’ of tolling all the bridges. Obviously to gain support for such an idea, TransLink would have to politically wrap themselves in a green label, but an idea such as the one above is not really a heed for environmental sustainability as it is: “I’m short of cash, Dad (Victoria) has stopped paying for my rent, and Grandpa (Ottawa) died; and he wrote me out of his will.”

    Also, if more people took transit the advertising rates would go up = small gains.

    Also of note:
    TransLink is not as much of a planning department as it is political organ that solely bases its decisions through politicking and partisanship of whomever runs the organization (i.e. TransLink doesn’t do the nuts and bolts). The cool stuff (plans, ideas, vision) happens on the city department level re: Vancouver Downtown Trolley, bike paths and bike lanes etc. TransLink is more of the judge, jury and executioner who take their orders from Victoria. Example being that if a city department has an idea that ‘fits’ within the views of the current Translink mandate or Executive Board, the board would then try to promote the idea through its various means. If not, it gets ignored; or in some cases ridiculed.

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