September 23, 2020

BY KELSEY HEELEY

Students at Conestoga College are going to continue to pay more for their bus passes per term than the amount university students pay for the whole year.

Conestoga Students Inc. wanted a universal bus pass, called a U-Pass, to be included in tuition fees starting in September 2013, and held a referendum last year, asking students if they felt the same way. After a majority of students said yes, CSI took the proposal to the Region of Waterloo, which is responsible for public and specialized transit.

The region was supposed to get back to CSI about the feasibility of implementing a U-Pass, however, Ciara Byrne, CSI president, was upset to learn the plan was scrapped with no consultation.

“We were not told ahead of time that regional council was not going to implement the pass (in 2013). I found that out from a reporter for the Waterloo Region Record,” she said.

She added it is unacceptable that Conestoga College students pay $227 per term for a pass, while Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo students pay $67.50.

“Conestoga students have the worst bus service out of any of the post-secondary institutions in the region,” she said.

Both universities are more centralized, so the students can reap the full benefits of the transit system. In contrast, two of Conestoga’s campuses, Cambridge and Doon, are out of the way, so public transit is even more important, she said.

Grand River Transit (GRT) currently has seven bus routes that serve Doon campus daily, two of which also serve Cambridge.

Tony McLellan, a first-year journalism print student at Conestoga, isn’t happy that the U-Pass has been put on hold. He said it makes him a little angry.

“While it may be true that university students pay a bit more for their tuition, college students still pay thousands each year,” he said.

If the U-Pass was introduced, it would cost college students only $90 per term.

Coun. Jane Mitchell said the region won’t proceed with the U-Pass because the budget is too tight. It would cost $6.5 million to increase bus service to the college because 12 new drivers and 14 buses would have to be added.

Mitchell said she is also worried that students won’t use the bus service, even with the U-Pass.

Mitchell said the region still wants to implement the U-Pass, but suggested the start date may be in the distant future.

“For the U-Passes to be put through in 2013, everything would have to be done at the same time. The buses, trained drivers, extended bus services and hours. It’s too much,” she said.