All Posts Tagged With: "transit"
Wait for better transit to campus keeps getting longer
In the Western Gazette this week, writer Mary Ann Ciosk describes a scene that plays out hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of times a year in university towns across Canada:
“I check the time again—the bus is now 20 minutes late, and I have three minutes remaining before my class starts… Finally, a low mechanical growl can be heard in the distance, and around the corner appears our salvation, the 2 Dundas! But as the bus approaches, a new horror sets in. The 2 does not slow as it draws near the stop, but speeds past us with its cargo of disgruntled students tightly packed together—the bus is full.”
The issue of full buses making students late has long captured the imagination of campus news editors and student leaders. This fall is no exception. University of Lethbridge students pushed for better transit at a recent mayoral candidates debate. The Carleton University Students’ Association recently met with Ottawa transit officials to tell them too many students are getting passed up. In Victoria, B.C., post-secondary students held up signs on a street corner protesting poor service.
Nonetheless, in some cities at least, the wait for a better ride to campus just keeps got longer.
What students are talking about today (March 12th)
1. The headliners of Montreal’s much-anticipated Osheaga Music and Arts festival in August will be the Cure and Mumford & Sons. If those two bands don’t impress you, at least a couple of these other acts probably will: Beach House, Diamond Rings, Azealia Banks, New Order, the Lumineers, Phoenix, Kendrick Lamar, Vampire Weekend, Alt-J, Hot Chip, Tegan and Sara, Ellie Goulding, We Are Wolves, A Tribe Called Red and Wild Belle. That variety makes the $235 general admission pass look a lot more affordable. I highly recommend all students go to at least one big show at Parc Jean-Drapeau while they’re still young enough to get away with it. It’s a special place.
2. Some strange people in Toronto are paying $40 each to attend “cuddle parties,” a trend that has also been reported in Calgary. They’re just like they sound. Strangers get together in big groups and then cuddle, spoon and hold hands. Everyone wears pajamas and they all hang out together on pillows on the floor. Clothes stay on and it’s apparently non-sexual. Jessica Maxwell, a doctoral student at U of T who researches relationships, tells The Grid newspaper that cuddling stimulates production of the chemical oxytocin, a sort of love drug that relaxes us when it’s released.
Big Bird, full buses in B.C., hackers & Lena Dunham
1. In a poll, two-thirds of CNN viewers concurred that Romney came out on top. Romney didn’t win with the under-12 demographic, however, as he said he’d cut funding to PBS, home of Big Bird, because public television is not worth borrowing money from China to fund. Luckily for him, children can’t vote.
2. Transit users in Victoria, B.C. are being passed up by full buses more than twice often as predicted by B.C. Transit before they implemented “real-time tracking.” The agency suggests post-secondary schools should stagger class start times to reduce the problem. I have a feeling this isn’t just a frustration for B.C. students. Am I right?
3. Hackers called Team GhostShell have claimed responsibility for breaking into more than 120,000 computer accounts at dozens of universities to protest what they see as high-cost and low-quality higher education. Sites at the University of British Columbia and McMaster University were on the list of what’s called “ProjectWestWind.” Identity Finder, a data-protection company, found that more than 35,000 e-mail addresses and thousands of usernames were compromised. Most of the sites were the type made by professors themselves, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
39,000 students can’t use their bus passes
A Saint Mary’s University student said he quit his classes on Monday because the transit strike in Halifax has made it too difficult to get to school. ”I was already missing assignments and quizzes and stuff due to the strike,” second-year criminology student Chase Sabourin told CBC News. “The strike could be over this week, it could be another month down the road. I’m not going to wait around hoping it’s going to end tomorrow,” he added. Sabourin said he plans to return in September. Seven hundred Amalgamated Transit Union workers went on strike on Feb. 2. rendering Halifax’s 39,000 student transit passes useless, at least for now.
Would cost $12-million more
Vancouver’s transit authority has released a report on the viability of a gondola to ferry students and professors up Burnaby Mountain to Simon Fraser University. The report by CH2M Hill found that it would cost $12-million more than using buses over a 25-year period. That means it won’t be built anytime soon. The option may be considered in a “future strategic transportation plan,” says TransLink. Many people supported the aerial alternative because winter weather often keeps buses from navigating the icy roads and because the gondola may be more environmentally friendly than buses. However, the gondola was opposed by some homeowners who would have lived underneath it.
TransLink threatens to axe program due to abuse
TransLink, Vancouver’s transit authority, is threatening to cancel its discount transit pass program for students because it loses as much as $15 million each year due to lost, stolen and illegally re-sold cards, reports The Vancouver Sun. All 80,000 students at five local schools, including the University of British Columbia, get “U-pass” cards mailed to them each year after paying $30 per month, which is collected when they pay their tuition. That’s far less than the $151-a-month that a regular pass costs. But some students don’t need the cards. That’s why there are currently 29 listings of passes for sale or wanted on Craigslist. Ken Hardie, spokesperson of TransLink, told The Sun that about 11 per cent of U-Passes are lost and replaced, five per cent go to students who register for school but who drop out after receiving the U-pass and another two per cent of cards disappear altogether after being sent to schools. TransLink is looking at ways to save the program. They say that those caught trying to use a card belonging to someone else will be charged $348.
Students under 25 to save a dollar per semester
A U-Pass system will be implemented at Université de Montréal this coming fall. Despite a 2007 referendum where students endorsed the plan, it hasn’t been until now that funding has been secured from the Société de transport de Montréal and the university administration, the Montreal Gazette reported. The mandatory plan will see students pay $154 per semester, whether they use transit or not. For students under 25, this represents only a small savings. They are already eligible for reduced fares that cost $155 per semester. However, for those over 25, who are currently ineligible for student rates, the savings will be much higher, at a discount of $137 per term.
Change expected to save $1.4 million
Toronto city councilors, who make up the board of the Toronto Transit Commission, voted Tuesday to officially strip part-time students of their transit discount. TTC staff made the recommendation to the board following a December decision to extend the post-secondary passes to students attending private career colleges, who had been previously excluded. Beginning in July part-time students will no longer be able to purchase metro passes for $99, which is $22 less than a full price pass. The change is expected to save TTC $1.4 million.
Program too costly and ridership gains are ‘negligible’
Part-time students in Toronto could lose their eligibility for discounted transit fares, if city council approves a recommendation from the Toronto Transit Commission. While the TTC extended the discount to private career college students, who were previously excluded, in December, a review of the program concluded that losses on the discount were too high and that ridership gains were “negligible.” To mitigate the cost associated with permitting students attending private colleges to access discounted fares, the commission is now recommending that beginning July 31 that part-time students lose their eligibility. A transit spokesmen told the Toronto Star that “the TTC (staff report) is only looking at it from a budgetary point of view, given the budget pressures the TTC currently has, as opposed to any other issue like ability to pay.”
Students over 25 not eligible for discount bus fares
A Concordia University student is accusing the Société de transport de Montréal of “age discrimination,” because students over 25 are not eligible for discounted bus fares. Desea Trujillo, 40, and a single mother of two recently started a letter writing campaign to STM calling for the policy to be reversed. In 2002, discounted fares were introduced for students, but only for those aged 25 and under. Younger students can purchase monthly bus passes for $41, while older students have no choice but to pay the full fare of $72.75. “All full-time students should also have access to the same reduced fares,” Trujillo said to the Montreal Gazette. STM’s vice chairman Marvin Rotrand, says the current discount already costs the city $22 million, a price tag that would rise as much as $10 million if students over 25 were included. “This is a societal choice and the additional costs would have to be defrayed from somewhere,” he said.
City council votes 22-2 in favour at budget meetings
After a lengthy debate over pricing, Ottawa’s city council voted to give the university transit pass pilot project the go-ahead at budget deliberations Thursday night.
The proposed project still has to pass a referendum question in the upcoming student government elections at both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa before the pass will begin next school year.
The pass will cost $145 per term pass and will be folded into mandatory undergraduate annual fees. This price is discounted from the $242 students normally pay for the OC Transpo semester pass.
A referendum question requires 1,000 student signatures before it can appear on a ballot.
If the referendum vote doesn’t pass at either school then the pilot project will be cancelled.
Carleton’s student newspaper, The Charlatan, quotes Carleton University Students’ Association president Erik Halliwell as saying he is positive the referendum will pass.
“There are strength in numbers,” Halliwell told the Charlatan. “And students are becoming more of a priority.”
The paper reported that project will cost the city an estimated $3 million taken from the city’s transit reserve fund.
- photo by Dick Penn
City council will decide Sept. 9 if it will reverse policy forcing students 28+ to purchase pricier adult pass
The City of Ottawa is one step closer to removing an age limit for student bus passes, a move that student groups have criticized since the policy started in July.
The Ottawa transit committee voted unanimously to recommend city council reverse a policy that prevents students 28 or older from purchasing a student bus pass. Council will revisit the issue on Sept. 9, but a reversal will need the support of 75 per cent of council as it has already been debated once this year.
“It’s going to take some convincing,” says Nick Bergamini, vice president student issues with the Carleton University Students’ Association. “But we’re going to be lobbying really hard in the next few days.
“It’s our top priority.”
The age limit means that students 28 and over will have to pay the $84.75 adult price for monthly bus passes, instead of the $65.25 student price. In an eight-month school year, this would mean an additional cost of $156 per student. Students who normally purchase semester passes will pay an additional $194 over two semesters, while those who purchase a yearly pass will pay an extra $268.60 per year.
The age cap affects thousands of students across the city, including Will Samuel, a 32-year-old anthropology student at Carleton University. He says he is going to have to make sacrifices to pay for his bus pass this year.
“Every year I rely heavily on every penny pinched,” says Samuel, who is in the fourth year of his honours degree. ”I can either not afford books, a new winter coat I desperately need or glasses and contacts to replace my four year old glasses that are damaged.”
Many local student groups made presentations to council, including both undergraduate and graduate student associations at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, the Algonquin College Students’ Association and several other smaller universities and colleges.
Over 50 people showed up to the transit committee meeting to support a reversal of the age cap policy, says Bergamini. He says representatives from CUSA will be collecting petitions and meeting with city councillors throughout the week to try and win support, while similar initiatives are underway at other schools.
The age limit on student passes would save OC Transpo, Ottawa’s transit provider, $220,000 per year, according to internal estimates. But students have argued that they are already overburdened with tuition payments and living expenses, and that an age limit is an unfair cash grab.
OC Transpo has been struggling to balance the budget since a 51-day transit strike last winter cost it millions of dollars in revenues. A recent OC Transpo report also revealed that it spent nearly $2 million over budget paying workers overtime to repair and recertify buses after the strike.
Students call age limit on discounted passes ageism, cash grab
As of July 1, student bus passes in Ottawa will only be available to those 27 and younger – and some students are not too happy about it.
Older students must now pay the full adult rate for a monthly pass, $84.75, instead of a $65.25 student monthly pass. They can no longer purchase semester or annual student passes, which offer additional savings.
Student outrage has sparked a Facebook group with nearly 1,500 members as of July 16. Student leaders in Ottawa condemned the new policy, which passed last December.
“If you’re a student, you’re a student,” says Erik Halliwell, president of the Carleton University Students’ Association. “Many people are still in school after the age of 27, and many people are going back to retrain during the recession.”
He says the change affects about 3,300 students at Carleton University, including over 1,000 undergraduate students.
Algonquin College Students’ Association president Mike Hirsch calls the change “a tremendous mistake” that “unfairly disadvantages a very large demographic at Algonquin College” in a letter to the Ottawa Citizen.
Although Hirsch could not be reached for comment, Halliwell says the ACSA is circulating a petition to remove the age limit.
Halliwell says he also intends to petition city councillors, and thinks the issue could become important in the 2010 municipal election. City council cannot revisit the issue until next year unless a special motion passes with support from 75 per cent of city councillors.
Representatives from the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa have also expressed concern, but could not be reached for comment.
Some students are expected to attend tonight’s Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Committee meeting to plead their case, but Halliwell says the student union is preparing to confront council in September.
Several students have posted much harsher criticisms on a Facebook group called “Against the Age-Cut Off for Student Bus Passes.” Complaints range from “discrimination based on age” to “cash grab,” though some students have defended the policy.
The age limit will save Ottawa’s public transit service, OC Transpo, about $220,000 a year, according to the motion passed by council. The limit is based on the amount of time a student would take to achieve a doctorate if they were in school continuously.
OC Transpo’s revenues are down this year after a 51-day strike by employees took buses off the road. Several other changes have been made to increase revenue, including increased prices for bus fares, tickets and passes. Council also rejected a proposal for a universal student transit pass at the University of Ottawa last March.
Investigation finds 35 students selling student transit passes online
According to a CBC News investigation, about three dozen Vancouver university students are illegally selling their discounted transit passes online for a profit, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The so-called U-Passes, which have a photo on the front and are non-transferable, are used by as many as 70,000 students at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Capilano University and Langara College.
The price of the passes ranges from around $100 to $150 for four months, depending on the school, and allows unlimited travel on all of Vancouver’s public transit vehicles (including the light-rail SkyTrain and aquatic SeaBus). The cost is automatically added to students’ tuition fees regardless of whether or not they use public transit.
An equivalent pass, for four months, would cost a regular transit user $544.
Searching the classifieds website Craigslist, the CBC investigation found that 35 students were selling their U-Passes online. The team then met the students in person and filmed them with a hidden camera. Some of them said they have no use for the passes, and sell them every year.
One student told the CBC that bus drivers don’t usually check the pass photo against its carrier, and that they usually “just flash it” when getting on the bus.
In an attempt to test the drivers, CBC sent one of its white female producers on a bus, armed with the U-Pass of a male East Asian student. The female producer flashed the pass at three different bus drivers, “none of whom batted an eye,” although she later paid the fare after telling the drivers about her experiment.
A spokesperson for TransLink, Vancouver’s transportation agency, says bus drivers can’t slow down boarding to check holders of the discounted passes, and increasing policing would cost more than a crackdown would save.
He also says it’s hard to quantify how much the company is losing to U-Pass reselling.