Winnipeg students want extra U-pass exemptions
“If we can change the opt-out criteria to read ‘outside transit service area’ rather than ‘outside the city limits,’ that would be better."
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It’s a U-Pass, but without bus service nearby, it's not a me-pass.
That’s how some students feel about the universal bus pass—U-pass for short—which, though meant to give Winnipeg’s full-time students unlimited, affordable access to transit, falls short wherever the transit service does.
On Tuesday, councillors sitting on the infrastructure and public works committee (IRPW) will consider a motion to offer opt-outs not only to students residing outside of the perimeter, but also outside the transit service area.
Tanjit Nagra, President of the University of Manitoba Students Union (UMSU), said students are seeking exemptions due to an oversight in the negotiating process between participating student unions and the city, when those parties equated the Perimeter Highway with the range of Winnipeg Transit service.
As the agreement stands, students located outside of the perimeter can opt out, but she said there are students inside city limits who can’t use transit either.
“If we can change the opt-out criteria to read ‘outside transit service area’ rather than ‘outside the city limits,’ that would be better for them,” Nagra said. “For students that can’t use transit that are having to pay for gas, for car insurance, a parking pass on campus—rising year by year—and then on top of it paying for U-Pass, I don’t think it’s fair for them to pay further fees.”
Nagra, who sent a letter in support of opt-out changes to the city, said she does not expect the overall number of students opting out will change dramatically, since “they’d have to file the paper work,” but she thnks it would have a “big impact” for those who really want the exemption.
Transit advocate Joseph Kornelsen said it’s a “tough issue,” because exempting students within the city limits negates some of “the value of the U-Pass” – chiefly, it’s universality.
“Exemptions should not be made without clear policy reasoning,” Kornelsen said. “Without clear policy, a pass like this could face death by a thousand exemptions, and that is not acceptable.”
Instead of granting new opt-outs during the 2018 budget process, he recommends the city expand service into the low-density areas where students might opt-out.
Of course that would mean increasing “the total resource allocation to transit’s operations,” which he would rather see done with a balance of both increased frequency and coverage.