Opinion: U-Pass a steal but doesn’t solve transit problems

Published in The Langara Voice

The U-Pass is a bargain, even for students who don’t use transit daily. It only takes two return transit trips a week to get your money’s worth. Even fewer if you’re traveling in multiple zones.

And clearly Langara students are aware of that fact: in last week’s referendum, 97 per cent of Langara students voted to keep the $41 per month U-Pass.

But if you’re one of those students who isn’t satisfied with how Vancouver post-secondary institutions give their students access to affordable transportation, having a look at how they do things in Toronto is guaranteed to change your mind.

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) offers a post-secondary Metropass for $116.75 per month. It’s $30 cheaper than a regular Metropass, and is only available to degree and diploma students, who must also pay an additional seven dollars for a TTC issued ID card. Students in certificate programs aren’t eligible.

The U-Pass works in Vancouver because students, government and TransLink figured out a way to offer daily commuters a substantially discounted transit pass while keeping it cheap enough that the mandatory monthly fee is palatable to other students.

We’re lucky to have it. It makes taking transit less miserable.

But I doubt it offers much consolation to Langara students who still have to wait in long lines while multiple buses – all packed to capacity – pass them by on 49th Ave.

It doesn’t compensate for the fact that the Canada Line was poorly planned—it’s tiny platforms and two-car trains won’t be able to meet the demands of a growing and densifying South Vancouver population for much longer.

And while these problems are real, they are the same problems that face any growing municipality.

But for now, we can bask in the glow of a deeply discounted transit pass while we wait in the rain for the next bus. Or maybe the one after that.

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