Breaking: The Not So Awesome New U-Pass

Hey, remember when we broke that story about how all the students in BC will now be getting access to a U-Pass? And how us cool kids at UBC will have to pay a little bit more? Sounds ok, right? We’re having a referendum on it in March so there will be more on this to come.

However, the new U-Pass system SUCKS SO HARSH. Let us break it down.

  1. The U-Pass will now be monthly, instead of by semester. This is a HUGE pain in the ass, to always remember to go get your U-Pass at the end of the month before it becomes the 1st. Also, isn’t this wasting a lot of paper?
  2. You will most likely be going to a vending machine to get your U-Pass.
  3. If you lose your U-Pass, you can’t get another one until the next month. Update: You can actually get up to one lost one per month, but have to go to the carding office instead.
  4. The U-Pass won’t have your picture or name on it. It also will not be able to swipe in the swipy machines.
  5. You have to present your student card with your U-Pass.
  6. If you are caught without your student card, you are fined $173 AND you are not allowed to participate in the U-Pass program for the rest of the year.

So, let’s say you’re taking the Canada Line to work. There’s a random fare check before you get on the train, and you have your U-Pass in your pocket like you always do. You’re asked for your student card, and then you realize- oh shit, you forgot your student card in your gym bag after using it to scan in at the BirdCoop! If you get a mean transit cop, you’re then fucked for the rest of the YEAR.

Not to mention that if you get your wallet stolen or just misplace your U-Pass (as I do at least three times/year) you are then fucked for the rest of the MONTH.

So basically Translink is trying to crack the whip down on students. Good thing we have some smarty pants on Council. Students, if you get caught, just say that you have no fare instead of showing “half” of it. Then you’re treated like a regular criminal and not that of the super special student criminal. Oh, and if you’re graduating, don’t forget to “lose” your student card! It will be valid for another five years, so you have all that time to get your friends who are still in school to give you their “lost” U-Pass each month.

Thank you, Translink for this epic fail.

Rage your comments and conspiracy theories in the commentzzzzz and


15 thoughts on “Breaking: The Not So Awesome New U-Pass

  1. huh?

    #6 doesn’t make any sense. Ok, fine us, but why would you punish people who DO OWN a legit U-pass by terminating it? Isn’t the whole point punishing those who don’t?

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  3. sigh

    In what world is this new U-pass system reasonable? Also, isn’t BC all big on sustainability? If every student enrolled in the U-pass program were to have their monthly passes mailed to their home (like it happens now), how much more money and paper would be wasted?

  4. Blake

    Your faithful student union hasn’t signed (hopefully) the contact with Translink yet. All of these terms are completely negotiable. I am sure with a bit of clever strategy and diligence, you can win concessions on a lot of the issues you mention. Make sure you communicate this to your representatives on the joint AMS/UBC/Translink committee (usually the President and Vice-President, External).

  5. UBCid

    The counter argument:

    1) and 2) This is just like any other monthly transit pass in the in the Translink system, let alone Canada. We’re at par with the rest of the country.
    3) This almost seems like a necessary evil, given the new one month system.
    4) How is this a downside? Do you see anyone swiping their Upass anymore??? Besides, when the new digital pass system goes in a few years, we will have to “beep-in” anyways. (This point also supports the point I made in 1)
    5) I have to agree with this point. This is an anti-counterfeit measure. Before, it was pretty easy to guess if person X was a university student. “Oh, you’re riding the 99 towards UBC and you’re about 18-22 years old. You have to be a university student”. Now that all the colleges have the UPass, the usership is a little more diverse.
    6) Ok, I get it. Yes if you forget your student card this is an issue. However, just like with a monthly pass right now, if you forget it, you can appeal it within 24 (or is it 48??) hours. Translink won’t enforce a fine just because you forgot it. Yes, they will issue it to you, but you simply need to appeal it and it disappears. If you do this multiple times in a close time period, then they may fine you. Having said that, you are actually supposed to have your student card on you at all times in order to even be in any UBC building….

  6. Will Z

    Well I agree with the proposed changes and think that many of you are complaining over what you perceived as “unfair” and “inconvenient”. So many people abused the program, and this new program design helps to keep your future U-Pass/One Pass fares down and continue the integrity of the program.

    It prevents those who abused and frauded the programs to prevent the program becoming discontinued. Is it fair for a student to register for the semester, get their U-Pass, and bail-out to have a four-month transit pass, while likely getting a 100% return on their tuition? Or a student who drops out, successfully appeals their tuition refund, and has a transit pass for the remainder of the semester? The monthly renewal keeps everyone honest, and minimizes any risk to continuing the program, thus keeping costs down. How about the many of those who did abuse the program who used to be able to flash their U-Pass cards, when it’s not them on the U-Pass, while in a sense committing fraud and fare evading? Secondary school students are required to show their Faresaver Cards and Go-Cards to gain the discount, so this also applies to us. So what if you have to wait in a queue to have a lost fare card replaced– That’s a luxury not available to people who pay full price for a Transit pass, right? So if you lose your U-Pass, you don’t have to worry that someone else has your pass, because if they cannot match the proper ID, it’s useless to them. I can list another 1,001 reasons why I believe they are continuing the integrity of the program; however, I believe I made my point too.

    Doesn’t this all add-value and shows that the government is committed to continuing the program? Stop complaining and suck it up.

    @ Everyone who did support the new platform: I’m very proud that you put those whiners in their place!

    Here for those who want to continue to complain when you have it better than most:


    TransLink, in partnership with the provincial and federal governments, is moving forward with a project that will create a whole new experience for transit customers in Metro Vancouver. By 2013, everyone who takes their trips on transit will find the system simpler and easier to use, and transit more secure at all times of the day. And that’s just the beginning!

    Transit services will start to change, better matching the actual travel needs of customers. The way transit fares are calculated will ultimately change to deliver more value, making our integrated transit system an even easier choice for trips of all kinds.

  7. this sucks

    Does anyone know what the transit people who usually just stand at skytrain stations are supposed to do, except for just standing there? I’ve always been curious.

  8. lg

    I am amazed by the comment about the number of times some students “lose” their U-Pass.

    Do you care for your driver’s licence the same way? You debit card? You credit card? Your healthcare card?

    The U-Pass is such a deep discounted transit fare concession even $5 more a month and a small inconvenience still makes this “entitlement” a great deal especially if you are an adult user that must travel through 3 zones. Most UBC students are 19 and older so would be classed as adult fare users normally.

    UBC students, under proposed U-Pass changes, will have the same requirement as all the other non-U-Pass transit users, they must purchase their pass on a monthly basis.

    Comparing regular fares, you know the ones that most of the other transit users must pay, including elementary and high school students, to the newly proposed U-Pass fare shows how great of a bargain this is.

    UBC students pay $23.75 a month, concession fares for high school students pay $46.50 a month and regular adult fares, depending on how many zones you travel, pay $81 – $151 a month!

    The U-Pass system has been successful in encouraging students to take transit but it has had its cost or negative impacts on other sectors of the regional transit system. Most UBC students living in communities other than within the core of the region know what I am talking about. It’s great to have urban rail and B-Line express systems operating on 1-15 minute frequencies but it is of no help having to transfer to another mode of transit that operates on 30-60 minute frequencies. Other areas of the region would love to have a B-Line type of service and thought with the opening of the RAV (Canada) Line that those buses could be used to provide say a B-Line service down King George Boulevard in Surrey or elsewhere where conventional buses are overcrowded on a daily basis. Instead, most of these buses were used to ease the loads to the two major university campuses who receive U-Pass deep discounted fares.

    At some point, the vast majority of regional residents may get annoyed when they find out how much of a deal UBC students receive through the U-Pass system. Despite many students feeling they have a right to entitlement of deep discounted transit fares, the rest of the region’s residents who do not have a supportive transit system that provides a viable transportation alternative and who pay 2/3 of Translink’s revenues without receiving any U-Pass or even a free single day pass, may just demand that all university students pay regular fares.

    The day of financial reckoning is coming to Translink, or better named RedInk. They are not allowed to run a deficit and if you have been noticing, Translink’s debt load and debt service costs have risen greatly since BC Transit transferred its assets over to the region’s transit agency, Translink, on April Fool’s Day, 1999.

    Those who receive little or nothing from Translink’s transit services, and that is the vast majority of residents, property owners and vehicle users, have already said to their local governments that they are not willing to pay more property taxes to fund something they get little benefit from.

    So, in the end, even though I am one who receives no discount for using the regional transit system, I would recommend to students at UBC to except a small inconvenience of purchasing a monthly pass, like everyone else who uses the transit system must do, and give up a few gourmet coffees a month and vote for the U-Pass.

    Most of us not eligible for a U-Pass or any other discount are envious of your entitlement.

    Disclosure: I am not a staff person or student at any post secondary campus in the region nor am I receiving any remuneration from AMS for my comment. I live in Surrey and own property. Luckily my employment doesn’t require either vehicle or transit use. I use transit to travel to Vancouver, which is infrequent, and either walk or ride my bike to go shopping for daily items. I pay a levy (tax) every year that is earmarked for Translink. The amount of Translink property tax levy I pay each year is more than a UBC or SFU student pays for their yearly U-Pass. Next time you have to renew your monthly U-Pass perhaps a simple thank you to those of us who make your U-Pass possible would suffice. If I was only thinking of myself I would ask you to vote NO as it may mean that my property taxes will go down. But given Translink’s ability to spend spend spend there is no guarantee that I would receive any tax relief and students at UBC would be without a privilege most of us would love to receive. Thanks for giving some consideration to my thoughts.

  9. lg

    The new smart card turnstile system which for the most part is meant to capture fare losses from evasion will cost 3 times more than the estimated loss of fares to evasion. In addition, in 2009, Translink’s police had a budget of $29 million. Debt service costs for the new smart card system and policing costs will be over $40 million a year. How much transit service could you provide for the same amount?

    Ken Dobell, former City of Vancouver manager, former CEO of Translink,
    former Deputy to the Premier of BC, former chair of the new Trade and Convention Centre that went over budget by $450 million was the registered lobbyist for the company that received the contract for the new fare collection system.

    Perhaps this adding $5 a month to your U-Pass will be used to finance the new fare collection system.

    When Translink talks about matching services to meet travel needs that means reduced transit service hours. Given the amount of the deficit Translink is looking at next year and in 2013, and yes they knew about this back in 2008, there are deep cuts coming to the conventional system, namely the bus system.

    Translink spends millions a year on crafting its message, even when they feed you chicken manure they can make it smell and taste like a cinnamon bun.

  10. Martin Spacek

    Cry me a river lg. You left out a rather important detail. Us students are *forced* to pay $30 a month into upass, the same way you’re forced to pay taxes. Only thing is, I’m not a property owner like you. There’s a word for this: regressive taxation.

    No longer a luxury of being a UBC student, this is now a non-negotiable part of being a student in any public university or college anywhere in this province. For a grad student that is also forced to remain registered during summer session, this comes to $360 a year, regardless of how much or how little we use the service. This arrangement rewards those that live in the boonies, and punishes those of us who do not. A fine way to encourage urban sprawl.

    I bike. I can count on one hand how often I use translink every month. Without upass, I’d use it even less. I’m based at VGH, not main campus. This was already a terribly inflexible system, and now I have to haul my ass to main campus every month to get a fresh one, and worry that I have both cards with me the few times I do use translink. And, I get to pay 26% more for these new features. Golly, I sure do wish my income would go up by 26% in a single year.

    How could I vote any other way than “no” in the upass referendum?

    I wonder how many students per month will be fined for not having the upass they’ve already paid for while taking translink to campus to pick up the upass they’ve already paid for.

    Why can UW get it right, and not us?

    They pay less, even though it’s optional. They get one pass per quarter, not one per month. And faculty and staff are also eligible, not just students.

    Ultimately, transit should be free to use, the same way most roads and bridges are free to use. Apparently, the cost of fare collection and enforcement is a good chunk of fare revenue. A free transit system would remove the final psychological barrier to getting out of the car. Ridership would go up, and service would be forced to improve. How to pay for it? A small increase in local sales tax. Perhaps a good start would be to make zone 1 or intra-zone travel free off-peak. To deal with the hooliganism that’s resulted when attempted in big cities, we need to experiment. Maybe force everyone to buy a simple pass, once a year for say, $5. Make it available for sale everywhere, including on buses. No expensive fareboxes, just something you flash to the driver. Something to make you a member of the system, even if at very low cost, and even if you’re only a visitor.


  11. Ilyas Khan

    This is the biggest bullshit I have ever experienced in my life. Why do I have to pay 30 something dollars a month per semester for a fucking uPass if I don’t even take public transit. Just another stupid fucking tax that is a non-negotiable way for the government to profit if you ask me.


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