BY SARAH VEENSTRA
Pinch yourself, as the dream of a Grand River Transit U-Pass may actually become a reality for Conestoga College.
At the Conestoga Student Inc. board of directors meeting on Oct. 29, it became clear just how seriously GRT and CSI have been working to set plans of a U-Pass in motion.
The universal pass, or “U-Pass” as it’s commonly referred to, is a bus pass currently available to all local university students. The price of the pass is included in their tuition.
A slide show prepared by CSI president Jeff Scherer outlined the proposed changes to current GRT bus routes heading to and from the college’s Doon, Waterloo and Cambridge campuses, focusing mainly on routes 10, 16, 61, 116 and 111.
For routes 10, 116, 61 and 111, GRT’s plan is to cut current wait times during peak season (the fall semester) in half with the addition of approximately eight buses. This would mean stops that presently have a 30-minute wait in between buses would only have a 15-minute wait period, if the U-Pass is implemented.
Route 16 would also be getting additional buses but instead of decreasing wait times during the day, it would be for the addition of an evening service.
To complete the changes, GRT would need to acquire a total of eight buses and add 14,004 scheduled hours, a cost that totals just below an estimated $2.4 million.
“GRT has said that the changes will affect 10,000 students,” Scherer said. “We, however, estimate more like 10,500 students.”
Scherer said he has asked that GRT not raise the price of the U-Pass past the current Conestoga bus cost of $240. If the U-Pass is implemented, the cost will be added to the tuition payment of every Conestoga student without the ability to opt out.
Sometime this month, CSI will make a survey available to get student response, and to get a more accurate depiction of what the majority of students rely upon for their main method of transportation. They also want to know what students feel is a fair price for the U-Pass if it does become available.
“The city still has to vote to include this in their budget, which they’ll do in January,” said Scherer. “If it passes, then policy says we have one week to get students to vote. We want to make sure everyone can voice their opinions.”
In other CSI business, a vacant board of director position was discussed. As the director left part way through the semester, there are not any policies currently in place on filling the void.
The vote was unanimous to fill the spot, however, discussions of how it would be filled quickly became heated, as directors Brian Clark and Dita Dragusha felt it best to hold a by-election, (only including those who previously ran for the position from last year). However, other members, including vice-president Cameron Jones, felt it did an injustice to the new crop of approximately 3,000 first-year students.
After much debate, the board voted for an open election, agreeing to allow any student to run for the vacant position given they meet the following criteria: they are 18 years of age, possess a clean code of conduct, they are a full-time returning student, graduating in or following April 2016 and are not enrolled in a co-op program.
Those interested in running are asked to get 100 student signatures of endorsement along with one faculty member and one program co-ordinator, to be submitted by Nov. 13. The board will then go through the applicants and make a selection from the finalists.
Also at the meeting, CSI made the decision to send director Hope Krempa to the Champions for Change Indigenous Education Conference held on the Brantford reserve, Nov. 3-4.
“We really only have one course with any kind of native studies and it’s in one of my courses,” said Clark. “We should have indigenous studies throughout all the social services programs at the college but we don’t.”
Krempa believes the knowledge that could be gained from the conference will help her and other CSI directors in advocating for indigenous studies on campus.
CSI also voted to bring back two aboriginal workshops that were held in the winter semester of 2015 with great success – the first on making moccasins and the second on playing traditional drums.
“We were only going to have the one last year but because the class size was so small and we had an abundance of students sign up, we decided to hold the second one,” said Clark. “I think it’s important that we do it again.”
The next CSI meeting will be held near the end of November, with an exact date to be determined by the board.