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Students want universal bus pass

Vote at U of M passes strongly

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STUDENTS at the University of Manitoba have voted overwhelmingly to support a new bus pass that would give university students unlimited access to Winnipeg Transit.

The passes would boost transit ridership, they'd make students' lives easier, they'd get cars off the street and they're green-friendly.

One slight challenge -- the students want the city and the province to pay for a big chunk of the cost.

Specifically, around $5 million.

An UMSU referendum passed by a 74 per cent margin in one of the larger student turnouts in recent memory.

"The universal bus pass (U-Pass) is a bus pass that allows students access to all Winnipeg Transit routes and buses any time, anywhere transit services are provided. The U-Pass would be valid throughout the academic year, September to April," said an UMSU official.

"The U-Pass would not cost students more than $85 per semester, indexed to the rate of inflation," he said.

"UMSU has been working with Winnipeg Transit over a number of years and investigating the costs associated with the implementation of a U-Pass at both the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg. The overall cost for Winnipeg Transit to provide a U-Pass to both universities (Manitoba and Winnipeg) is $283 per student," the UMSU official said.

UMSU is proposing the city and the provincial government pay $133 year, leaving students to pay $150 for two semesters.

Given that the U of M and the U of W have roughly 38,000 students, that could cost government $5,054,000 a year.

"It is important to remember that the city and province already subsidize bus passes for university students -- currently, the post-secondary monthly pass is subsidized by both levels of government to the tune of $15.40 per pass.

"However, that (current) subsidy is only going to those students who purchase the monthly, post-secondary pass. What UMSU and the University of Winnipeg Students Association are asking is that government shift from directly (subsidizing) a smaller number of students and spread that subsidy over a larger body of students," said UMSU.

Advanced Education Minister Erin Selby lauded the students, but didn't promise any money.

"This is a great step for students towards a program that will save money and help the environment. From what we understand, the 'Yes' vote at the referendum allows the students to move forward with their plan by allowing them to negotiate a price with Winnipeg city transit," said an aide to Selby.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 3, 2012 B3

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