September 22, 2019
Students get on a GRT bus to go to Conestoga College on Sept. 13. Photo by Sarah Gilder, Spoke News.

By Sarah Gilder, Spoke News

With the school year starting and transportation options at peak demand, students at Conestoga College are getting back into the swing of purchasing bus passes in order to make their year a little smoother. But with new changes to the bus passes taking effect as of Sept. 1, there are a few more challenges for them to face.

Many students decide to buy bus passes out of convenience, and with the passes selling for $292, it is actually saving them money over the four months that the passes are valid.

This year, Conestoga College and Grand River Transit (GRT) decided to implement a new way for the bus passes to work. Instead of flashing the little sticker that students receive, they are now required to tap their One Card on the fare box and have it accept the card before they get onto the bus.

The system was put in place mainly because there have been a lot of counterfeit stickers being produced and sold around campus for far cheaper than the actual stickers. The bus drivers have a hard time identifying counterfeit stickers when the students only give them a few seconds to look at the cards they are holding. In addition, the stickers don’t hold the ink very well, so, when they become faded, it is hard to tell what year they are for and if they are legitimate passes or not.

The method isn’t perfect, however. Some students have returned to the CSI office to complain about their cards being refused on buses; some have even claimed that bus drivers have kicked them off of buses.

Students with problem cards appeared, however, to be in the minority, as many students said their passes were working normally and that they didn’t have any issues after they purchased their sticker and had their cards activated.

David Ortloff, a fitness and health promotion student at Conestoga, recounted how he was personally told that if his card did not work by Sept. 23, he would have to pay for bus tickets.

“I wasn’t sure what to do because I had already paid my bus fare,” Ortloff said. “I thought buying it early would have me be prepared, but so far it is only making things harder.”

Ortloff purchased his pass a week before school started on Sept. 4. But with his card not working, he has almost been kicked off of buses due to drivers becoming suspicious and even demanding a receipt to prove that he did, indeed, purchase his sticker from the school. But the pass he purchased still doesn’t work on the bus system even though he has already made two trips to the CSI office to try to fix the problem.

The sticker itself is supposed to be proof of purchase. However, some drivers are even going against what the GRT website claims and kicking students off of the buses altogether.

The problems, however, may be sporadic. Some students say that they haven’t had any issues with the cards and that they have been allowed to board buses as usual. Others, such as biotechnology technician student Jordan Allewell, experienced problems with the bus passes before they managed to get the issues resolved.

Overall, the number of problem cases is dwindling — plus a lot of GRT drivers are becoming more understanding.

Neither Grand River Transit nor Conestoga Students Inc. responded to requests for interviews on the issue.

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