The Students Association of MacEwan University (SAMU) executive committee elections are on March 8 and 9, and with that comes the U-Pass (universal transit pass) referendum. The referendum gives students a chance to vote on whether or not they believe the U-pass should be a mandatory part of student fees, which keeps the transit costs lower.
In previous referendums, students have voted in favour of the U-Pass in excess of 70 per cent, according to the SAMU website. There has, however, been talk on campus against the U-Pass, and a collective fear for transit users that this pass will be taken away, causing them to have to spend a far more money on monthly passes during the semester.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m biased in my favour of keeping the U-Pass. I rely on public transit to get to and from school, and use it in many aspects of my daily life as well. However, I feel there’s many reasons a student should use their U-Pass, or at least have one if they don’t take public transit to school.
First, the required U-Pass greatly lowers the cost of a monthly transit pass for students. Although $170 seems like a large sum to pay, being part of a community requires some sacrifice. We all attend school at MacEwan University, and as such, we belong to the community. Everyone pays SAMU fees, fees for sports and wellness, as well as the U-Pass fee; it’s how these programs are maintained. Not everyone uses every available resource at the school, but as part of this community, we all contribute to keep it successful and running smoothly. It’s just like single people paying education taxes to their government, where everyone pays something to contribute to a better society.
For many, this isn’t good enough, but there are a few reasons why students might want to use their U-Pass instead of driving into the city. City Centre Campus parking passes are wildly expensive, ranging from $171 per month for unheated parking to $233 per month for the heated parkades. If you don’t manage to get a parking pass due to limited space, parking costs around between $3 and $7 an hour. If you’re at school for five hours a day, five days a week, that’s $500 for a month of parking. With the Centre for the Arts and Communications joining us at the City Centre location, parking is going to be even tighter. It’s a far better economic decision to pay the U-Pass fee, and then drive to an LRT station and park for free.
If students don’t want to take transit to school, they can still use the U-Pass to get around the city. Once at campus, it’s often faster to take the LRT or bus to an area like the U of A, Jasper Ave, or 123 Street than it is to drive and find a new parking spot. Driving in the city is busy, there’s lots of construction going on, and it’s rare to drive downtown and find a decent parking spot faster than a bus or LRT can get you somewhere.
U-Passes are also great for nights (or days) when students have a couple of drinks. Even if you need to take a cab or Uber home, getting somewhere by bus provides a safe way to the place you plan to drink at, and guarantees you won’t drink and drive.
The U-Pass is an all-access transit pass exclusive to students, and we should utilize it while we can. As such, I encourage people to vote in favour of keeping the U-Pass, but even if you don’t agree with me, you should still vote. The city notices our votes, so we should use our voice to tell it what we feel is important.
Cover photo from rsmv.net