U-Pass program going to referendum this spring

BCIT among 11 post-secondary institutions to vote whether or not to continue universal transit pass this spring

The uPass is going up, but so are Translink's fees.

The uPass is going up, but so are Translink’s fees. Courtesy of Kai Jacobsen / The Ubyssey

Student unions at 11 post-secondary institutions in Metro Vancouver, including BCIT, will take part in a referendum deciding whether or not to continue participating in the U-Pass program when the current contract expires in March this year.

Presently, all students (whether they use it or not) pay the monthly mandatory fee of $30 in addition to tuition fees to cover the cost of the pass.

The pass permits its users to use public transit in all three fare zones in Metro Vancouver and get a discount for the West Coast Express, a weekday commuter rail service between downtown Vancouver and Mission.

According to the information on British Columbia Institute of Technology Student Association (BCITSA) and TransLink websites, the revised program will be in effect from April 2013 to April 2016, and will adjust U-Pass rates yearly in accordance with TransLink fare changes.

The proposed monthly U-Pass rates are: $35 from May 2013 to April 2014, $36.75 from May 2014 to April 2015 and $38 from May 2015 to April 2016.

[pullquote]Despite the fee increase, there is no news of an increase in service levels specific to post-secondary students’ needs.[/pullquote]While this is an immediate increase of $5 per month from the current rate, it saves students up to $135 in transit fares in comparison to the regular-priced adult pass. Despite the fee increase, there is no news of any changes to public transit services specific to post-secondary students’ needs.

There are no significant changes to the U-Pass, other than the price: the pass will continue to give eligible students access to bus, SeaBus and Skytrain services in all three fare zones within Metro Vancouver.

The new U-Pass can be loaded directly onto the students’ Compass Card, the electronic fare card that will replace all FareSaver tickets in late 2013. Compass is a reloadable fare system which allows commuters to add value onto a single card instead of buying multiple tickets or passes. The new system was designed to reduce waste from paper tickets, and collect commuter data to improve transit services.

From February 15 to 22, BCIT students will have their chance to vote whether to renew BCIT’s U-Pass program or not. When asked about their opinions on the new program, BCIT students expressed their desire to keep the U-Pass.

“It’s not a surprise, and it’s most definitely not a welcome addition to the financial burden to us as students,” Thushara Suresh, a BCIT student, told The Link, “but I feel like it’s still worth the investment compared to the more expensive alternatives.”

Michael Fan, General Insurance and Risk Management student, shared Suresh’s opinion.

“They [TransLink] are going to change the prices for the regular adult passes: $91 for one zone, $124 for two zones and $170 for three zones,” says Fan. “Compare that to the mere $35 to $38 that we’ll be paying, we should be grateful.”

The referendum for the new U-Pass will take place at participating post-secondary institutions across BC starting January, and will continue until March 2013.

If only this was a graph of your investment portfolio.

If only this was a graph of your investment portfolio.


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