September 22, 2019

By Terry Foster, Spoke News

Despite the fact they’ve twice rejected a universal transit pass in the past, Conestoga College students will vote on the U-Pass again this week, from Sept. 24-28. If approved, the pass would allow them to ride any Grand River Transit bus and the Ion rail system.

If voted in, the new pass would be a mandatory for all students and cost $137 per semester. There would not be an option to opt out of the service, so even those who currently drive to Conestoga’s campuses would be required to pay for the pass. The new pass would be effective starting in September 2019.

The referendum has already caused some debate across social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. The views are fairly split, with most agreeing that it is a beneficial service to students who currently use public transit. Both sides seem to agree that it should an optional service.

CSI, Universal transit pass, Upass, Conestoga College, Conestoga buss pass
Students line up at the Conestoga Students Inc. service hub to purchase buss passes at Conestoga’s Doon campus in Kitchener, Ont., on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 (Photo by Terry Foster/ Spoke News)

The current GRT college pass costs $292 per semester; therefore, the new transit passes would save riders $155 per semester. However, this does mean that those who are already paying $262 for their parking pass will have to budget the additional $137 for a service they may not use.

Spencer Norris, a student who currently commutes to Conestoga’s Doon campus, said, “I would prefer if it was an optional service and would be OK if it was voted in as an optional service.”

Another Conestoga student, Alex Mason, uses the GRT services and said, “I like this because it’s better than paying $292 per semester.” But when asked how he felt about students who do not use public transit, Mason went on to say, “If you look at U of W and Laurier, they are already doing it; however, if there were a way to opt out of it, I would feel much better about that, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

According to the Conestoga website, approximately 13,000 students are enrolled at various Conestoga campuses, but this pass would only affect the Waterloo, Cambridge and Doon (Kitchener) campuses. According to GRT, more than 3,000 students currently travel to the school by transit daily.

This may prompt more students to choose public transit and avoid paying the $440 per term for the parking pass. GRT announced this month that, if more students begin taking GRT, the transit service would add an additional 125 bus trips and build a new terminal at the A Wing of the Doon campus. GRT hopes this would also cut down on the notorious traffic bottleneck that the school already faces. With only one way in and out of the college, exiting the school already can take up to 45 minutes.

The information for the vote will be sent to students’ email accounts. More information about the referendum can be found at www.conestogastudents.com

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